EPISODE SEVEN: Tree of Life

Survivor Siberia Logo

 

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?

 

Yenisei Night 19

mqnonq

 

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.”

Charlotte- Yenisei Tribe
“At noon tomorrow, we will officially be halfway through Survivor: Siberia. And the rules of Survivor are that at a certain point, the tribes merge into one tribe, and I feel like that merge has to be just around the corner! Making the merge, I think that’s probably a goal for all of us, so it’s very exciting. But it’s also very scary, because there are only four of us on Yenisei. Koryok still has six, which means if they so feel inclined, they can pick us off one by one. They have the numbers.”

“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.”

Charlotte- Yenisei Tribe
“The hope is that there is going to be some sort of chink in Koryok’s armor we can take advantage of. Be it a conflict between two people, or one person who is really working everyone’s nerves… just some sort of angle we can use to keep them from sticking together. The issue is that we don’t really know what the dynamics are in their group. We see Koryok every few days at the challenges and that’s it, so we have a little glimpse of their personalities, but we don’t know what’s really been going on at that camp. We certainly have an uphill battle ahead of us, and we’ll need every advantage we can get.”

“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.”

Zeke- Yenisei, Mid Game
“I do feel somewhat responsible in regards to the whole Olivia incident, on account of I am in a position of leadership with the Yenisei Tribe. People look to you for guidance, they’re gonna follow your lead, so if you’re putting out the right positive vibes and making that effort to include everyone, people will follow suit. I feel like I could have done way more to make sure Olivia knew that she was included in this tribe and that she was loved, without judgment, for all of who she is. I have that same love for every player here, and I didn’t show it to her when she needed it. The reality of the situation now is that she flipped on this tribe, and that puts us down numbers. We the underdogs.”

“Well maybe Uncle Vinnie’s right,” Huang says, “and she was voted out and we won’t need to worry about it.”

 

Koryok Day 19

mqalap

 

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.”

Olivia- Koryok Tribe
“Teddy went home last night, and the plan was that he was supposed to be voted out unanimously. And that’s not what happened, because there were two votes for me. I’ve gotten votes at almost every Tribal I’ve been to! It’s starting to get more than a little annoying. I’ve voted exactly like Sheena has told me to every time, and I led Nick to the Koryok Tribe’s idol, just like I promised. I feel like I’ve been doing everything in my power to prove my loyalty, and it’s just somehow not enough.”

“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.”

Sheena- Koryok Tribe
“I’ve been really cautious about not making unnecessary deals, because I don’t need those coming back to bite me. On Day 3, I made an alliance with Nick, Maurice, and Tallulah Mae, and I’m intending to stick by my word to them, so I’ve been doing everything I can to keep from making promises outside of our ‘Kor-Four.’ But with the merge coming up, it’s really important that the entire tribe are feeling united and together. With six of us, we have the numbers to pick Yenisei off, one at a time. But if either Hannah or Olivia realized they’re not in the alliance? They could flip and decide to work with Yenisei against us, and I’d be screwed. Keeping Hannah under control is easy, because she’s not really taking the game that seriously, and I don’t think she’s smart enough to realize she’s a pawn. But Olivia is different, she’s way smarter and she’s not going to just blindly follow orders.  If I  have to make a deal with Olivia just to make sure I have her under control, I’ll do it for the sake of the game.”

“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.”

Olivia- Koryok Tribe
“I haven’t really had any solid alliances in this game since Mandy was voted out, so when Sheena offered me final three with her and Nick, it’s a tempting offer. And her arguments make sense, I think. Sheena is really competitive, and I know how badly she want to win this game, so I believe her when she says she doesn’t want to bring Maurice or Tallulah to the end of the game. So as much as I’ve had my ups and downs with her, it’s an offer that’s worth giving some serious consideration.”

“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.

Sheena- Koryok Tribe
“Olivia is unpredictable, but I need her on my side for the time being, so I’ll do whatever I have to if it keeps her line with the tribe. But as far as I’m concerned, Olivia is not a long-term player in this game. The sooner I can get rid of her for good, the better.”

 

Tribal Merge Day 19

 

vp4a3z

 

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.

Hannah- Merged Tribe
“Oh my god, I did it! I made it to the merge and I’m soooy excited, right? Like, that’s such a big goal, especially because I didn’t know how I was going to do. Like, I don’t want to get voted off, duh, but like, being on Survivor is like nothing I’ve ever done before, ever. So I’m just really proud of myself that I made it this far. My strategy is just to be myself, so I guess I’ll just like, see how much farther I can go now!”

“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.

 

pqn8xq

 

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.

Tallulah- Merged Tribe
“We had ourselves a feast awaiting us here in this beautifully decorated home. All sorts of traditional Russian dishes, just there for the picking. It was such an exciting moment to know after being so hungry for so long that we were all getting a proper meal. And it was made all the more meaningful by being our merge feast, at that. I’m the oldest player out here, so as much as I’ve trusted my alliance to have my back, I always had it in the back of my mind that concern that maybe they’d be thinking, you know, that I’m the ‘old lady’ and that they don’t need someone my age when they could keep the young folks together. So on a personal note, I do feel like I had a lot to celebrate today.”

“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.

Tallulah- Merged Tribe
“When Olivia joined the Koryok Tribe, she didn’t waste any time in throwing her old tribe right under that bus, and I want to see how much of what she said is true. If there’s something I can’t stand, it’s people who hide behind religion to justify their bad behavior. And if Olivia is to be believed, Yenisei is a tribe that does a lot of preaching but not lot of practicing. So I am very curious to see what happens next.”

“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…”

Huang- Merged Tribe
“Don’t get me wrong, I love my tribe. They are three of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, but they’re not really people I have a lot in common with, they’re just older, more religious, you know what I mean. So I am legit excited to get to meet some of the people on Koryok, just because I feel like maybe I’ll relate a little better to some of them, and that’s something I’m going to need right now. If we can’t get anyone from Koryok to flip and vote with us, we’re boned. So hopefully I can make some inroads with some of these girls. I mean, Addy was voted out almost two weeks ago, so uh, maybe it’s time for Donkey Huang to find himself a new Dixie.”

“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.

Sheena- Merged Tribe
“It’s not that I don’t like all types of guys, but like, everyone in Hawaii is Asian, every guy I ever dated has been Asian. Huang is definitely my type, I mean, come on, look at him. He’s hot. Like, crazy hot. But I’ve fought plenty of hot guys before and when I step on the mat, that’s not going to distract me. I didn’t come out here to be on The Bachelor, you know? That’s Hannah,” she laughs.

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.

Sheena- Merged Tribe
“Of the Yeniseis, Huang is obviously the biggest physical threat, and there’s no way he doesn’t realize that. I’m not stupid, I know he’s trying to suck up because he’s worried he’s first on the chopping block. And if that means I get to flirt with him while he’s still around, well, I’m not going to complain about that,” she grins.

“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- Merged Tribe
“Huang… he seems cool enough, but it’s just so obvious to me that he’s kind of like, sucking up to the girls, and I know Sheena’s not dumb enough to fall for it, so it’s honestly kind of embarrassing to watch. Surprisingly enough, I think the Yenisei I like the most is Zeke.”

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.”

Nick- Merged Tribe
“I’m not a fan of religion, and that drives my parents absolutely crazy, because religion is such a huge part of Greek culture, and they take it really seriously—which drives me crazy. So based on what I’d seen of him and what Olivia has told me, I thought I’d find Zeke just awful to deal with, but he’s actually a really chill guy. You talk to him and you can tell he’s really genuinely interested in getting to know you, like he really cares about the answer when he asks you a question. And he’s really open minded. I guess he’s just not like most religious people I’ve had the misfortune of knowing.”

“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!”

Zeke- Merged Tribe
“My journey in my faith and with God has been a long, complicated one. I’ve never been comfortable with just kind of accepting things blindly, and that’s something I know is true because I feel God guiding me to experience the world, to explore humanity and ask questions, questions that are not always easy. People talk about their gut, and to me, that’s God, it’s that feeling deep in your chest of what you know is right. That to me transcends any one way of worshiping Him, you know? All love of God is beautiful, because to love God is to love what he created, which is, well… everything,” he smiles.

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…

Maurice- Merged Tribe
“Before we voted him out, Teddy trusted that me and Tallulah were with him, not Sheena and Nick, so I think that means we’re doing a good job at hiding our alliance from the others, and that’s really important. If people think we’re together, as, you know, our ‘Kor-Four’, that could turn all of us into targets. So during this first impression, I’m trying to stay away from Sheena and Nick, because we want don’t want to be detected.”

“…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.

Maurice- Merged Tribe
“So while most of the people my age were all kind of hanging out together, I decided, you know what? I’m gonna sit with Tallulah Mae and get to know Charlotte and Vince a little better, hang with the older crowd. I’m the youngest person out here, but I think I’m one of the most mature, so I genuinely enjoyed getting to chat with them. As much as I came out here to expand my horizons, it was nice to talk to someone who reminded me a little of back home.”

            “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.”

Charlotte- Merged Tribe
“Maurice reminds me a lot of the type of people I’d meet back at home, similar temperament and values, just a really good, grounded young man. I think if we had started out together, we could have built a strong alliance. But if Maurice has the values I think he does, that means he’s a loyal, loyal man, and there’s no way he’s going to turn on Koryok. So as much as I feel like we’re connecting on a personal level, I just don’t see him as having much use to me as far as the game is concerned. It’s scary, because the more I get to know the Koryoks, the more and more I’m getting the impression that our best option to flip someone is, well… Olivia. So to say the least, I’ve got my work cut out for me.”

 

 

 

Merged Tribe Day 20

 

l8q7kr

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.

Nick- Romanov Tribe
“The name for the merge tribe is the Romanov Tribe. They were, uh, the last dynasty in Russia, and I guess the idea is that we’re like, supposed to be royalty or something because we made it to the merge? I don’t know, I didn’t pick it. I think we could have picked something a little more evocative, but, I mean, I’m trying to be better about choosing my battles and choosing which hills I’m going to die on, so I didn’t want to make any kind of fuss about it. I’m just happy to be painting right now, honestly, so they could have called it, I don’t know, Britney Spears or whatever and I’d still be okay.”

As Nick continues to paint, Hannah giggles over on a swing that Vince has suspended from a tree, kicking her feet in joy.

Nick- Romanov Tribe
“The Yenisei camp is beyond my wildest expectations. I mean, I thought Maurice had the whole shelter business on lock, but Vinnie, he’s next level. I mean, you come into the camp and the first thing you see is this mud brick tower. They’ve got a table, they’ve got benches, there’s a swing, there’s a little, uh, kind of  altar and sanctuary type space, it’s just everywhere I look there’s something else to take in. There’s a creative energy to this place that’s so inspiring, it really feels like a privilege to be living here.”

 

qynonk

 

“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.

Vince- Romanov Tribe
“So let me tell you, here’s the plan, okay, here’s what it is. That little hut we had our feast in, that got my wheels turning, because it’s a lot like the shape of our shelter, with the circular shape to it. And it got me thinking, the nights out here, they’re pretty cold, so if we could get a wall up around the shelter, boy, then we’d really be in business. So the hut, the wall is a lattice, and that lets you make it a single piece the whole way around, and then you cover it from the outside. We just shot up in population, so if I gotta build a whole new shelter to fit ten people, I’m gonna take a little bit of inspiration from the locals and how they do it.”

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.

Charlotte- Romanov Tribe
“We have to explore every possible avenue if we want to turn our fortunes around in this game. We don’t have the luxury of writing off even a single option, and that includes Olivia. I am hesitant to approach her because she did leave us, and I’m sure she wouldn’t have done that if there wasn’t at least some ill will towards at least some of us on Yenisei. I don’t know how likely it is that she’ll consider working with us again, but our backs are up against the wall here. And I feel like even though Zeke blames himself for Olivia flipping, the truth is she and I did have some uncomfortable interactions, and I’m hoping that she’ll respect me coming to her, woman to woman, to try and smooth some of those over.”

 

86v77r

 

Olivia sits out in the meadow, reuniting with the goats as she gently pets the beard of a brown goat.

“Olivia?”

“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.

Olivia- Romanov Tribe
“I’ve been really nervous about the merge because I did flip on Yenisei, and that’s why they’re in the position they’re in now, powerless in tribe. I know they’d all probably have something to say about it whenever we got back together, and it’s not a conversation I’ve been looking forward to. I feel kind of like I’m preparing to be yelled at by my parents.”

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.”

 

Olivia- Romanov Tribe
“I fled Yenisei looking to get myself to higher ground, so to speak, and honestly, I don’t know if I found it on Koryok. Naomi was a total pit viper, and Teddy dug his own grave by threatening Sheena. It’s not that they wanted to keep me, it’s that they wanted them to go. Sheena says she wants me with her in the Final Three, but I don’t know if I can trust her. But at the same time, I don’t know if I can trust Yenisei. As much as Charlotte is trying to rewrite history and make it seem like I wasn’t on the outs, I totally was.”

“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.

Charlotte- Romanov Tribe
“If Olivia… if… I can accept that as a game decision, she felt it was the best choice for her to flip tribes, that I can understand. But it’s the thought that she left because she felt judged, that sits really badly with me, down in my stomach, because that’s something beyond the game. And I don’t have the answers for how to make it better. I don’t want to just lie to Olivia, because I do have a lot of my own thoughts and feelings that I’m evolving on, you know? This experience has been changing all of us out playing this game, I know it’s been changing me and I can’t imagine it’s not changing her. Maybe in a few days’ time, enough will have changed to where Olivia is seriously considering that maybe there’s a better path for her than with Koryok. I can only pray as much.”

 

mqvek3

 

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.”

Sheena- Merged Tribe
“I’ve been thinking it over, and now is the perfect time to send Olivia packing. We’ve been planning on saying six strong as the Koryok Tribe, but Olivia isn’t really Koryok, and I just don’t trust the bitch, plain and simple. The only reason she hasn’t gone yet is that stupid idol of hers. I’ve been waiting for her to feel safe.”

“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.

Sheena- Romanov Tribe
“I made a fake deal with Olivia just to keep her feeling comfortable, but if you want to win this game, you have to be thinking ahead. This Tribal coming up is the last one before the jury is going to start, and now that I’ve promised Olivia final three, I don’t want her on that jury, feeling like I betrayed her. There are just a million reasons to get rid of her now, and we can afford to do it while still maintaining control of the vote over Yenisei.”

“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.”

Tallulah- Romanov Tribe
“I raised five children from babes to college educated adults, and you know, I feel like being out here on Survivor has been like doing it all over again! Especially when it comes to the whole Nick and Sheena situation. They love each other as much as they hate each other and it’s because they are just so gosh darn similar. Neither one of them likes to be told what to do. With my kids, I have to remind them sometimes, you know, that they are family and that they need to be there for each other because ain’t no one else gonna stick their neck out for you except family. And in Survivor, an alliance is kind of like a family, in its own way. If we do not stay loyal and stay united as an alliance and as a, you know, a stand-in version of a family, well then we might as well just take the thing from Jeff and snuff our torches ourselves.”

“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.

Sheena- Romanov Tribe
“My goal from the first day was to dominate this game, and I feel like with every passing day, I’m getting closer and closer to that goal. Every decision I have made, my alliance has supported, and they’re continuing to support me as we move forward into this next stage of the game. It’s such an awesome feeling, I can’t describe it. We’re going to blindside Olivia, and it’s going to be awesome.

 

Romanov Day 21

oqgdyj

 

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.

Zeke- Cold Weather
“So today we got fresh duds at Tree Mail, which hey, I ain’t complainin’! Summer don’t last that long here, the nights have been getting colder, and it’s only been getting worse the longer we out here. So as an added bonus now that we all at the merge, they gave us jackets, hats, scarves, all that stuff we gonna need to stay warm. And like, look y’all, I’m from Little Rock, Arkansas, right in the heart of the dirty south, it ain’t get that cold there, so if we get anything that makes me a little warmer up out here, I ain’t gonna be mad about it!”

“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.

Zeke- Cold Weather
“Now do not get it twisted, what is inside a person, that is invaluable, that is what I’m going to assess people on. And growin’ up poor, we ain’t have money for designer nothing, fashion week took place at Goodwill as far as we was concerned. But I do think I happen to have an eye for what does look good, and God only gives us one body, so I don’t think there’s any crime in dressing that body so it look sharp,” he laughs.

“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.

Zeke- Cold Weather
“Before the merge, Yenisei was having a real moment when it came to the challenges, na’mean? We was winning a lot, so I’m hoping even though the challenges now is on an individual by individual basis, you know, I still want to see a Yenisei win. We the underdogs right now, and any sort of benefit in our corner, I’ll take it. I ain’t got the luxury to be picky, so if me or Uncle Vinnie or Huang or Charlotte, if any of us can win that immunity, that’s what I’m hoping for. Just a little something to maybe help us even the odds. So I guess we’ll just have to see what the challenge is when we get there and give it our all.”

 

 

 

Immunity Challenge Day 21

When It Rains, It Pours
Go out with a bang

 

“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.

Individual Immunity Necklace

“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- Romanov Tribe, Sunglasses
“Jeff drops the bomb of all bombs on me, that in that moment, I have to pick one person to Exile, and they won’t be a part of Tribal Council at all, whatsoever. And my thoughts are just racing because this is the chance that me and the other Yeniseis needed, so I have to pick wisely. So I’m just trying to think it over as fast as I can—who won’t flip? That’s the person I need to send, someone who wouldn’t be on our side anyway.”

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.

Sheena- Romanov Tribe
“My plan to get Olivia out tonight is down the drain, and I’m trying to keep it from showing but I know it’s all over my face. Just a perfect plan ruined. Without Maurice, we need Olivia for a majority, so lucky for her, she gets three more days. So… I guess now that means someone from Yenisei is out of here.”

 

 

Exile Island Day 21

 

 

 

 

 

wmzkw1

 

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- Cold Weather
“I don’t mind the physical being out on Exile part. It’s not ideal, you know, being out here in the grasslands all alone, but I can handle that. That’s just… the physical part is whatever. What’s a problem is that I have an alliance that needs my vote, and I ain’t there to cast it. ”

Maurice sits at the Ovoo’s base, striking the flint until a lively flame sparks.

Maurice- Cold Weather
“Having the numbers over Yenisei meant that we had the opportunity to make a sneak attack on Olivia tonight, but that can’t happen now. Without me there, the numbers get that much closer, it’s gonna be a matter of a single vote tonight. If Olivia catches wind, in any way, that we were fixin’ to chop her, who knows? Maybe she flips. She did it once, why couldn’t she do it twice? Now would be the perfect opportunity to do it.”

With his fire built, he lies down, trying to get comfortable.

Maurice- Cold Weather
“The only choice I have is to trust in my alliance back at camp, and know that those guys have this situation under control. But uh… I’m gonna be praying for them anyway,” he laughs.

 

 

 

Romanov Day 21

 

mqlxbg

 

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.

Huang- Romanov Tribe, Sunglasses
“Today could not have possible gone better! I won the first individual challenge, so I feel really awesome just because like, it’s awesome when you win, I dunno,” he laughs. “But the fact that it was for immunity, dude, that just blew it up! Going into this vote, I know I was a big target because I’m a threat in these challenges, and without Yenisei having numbers, there was a serious chance it was going to be me tonight. So going from that situation to complete and total safety? Man, that’s the most incredible feeling.”

“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.”

Huang- Romanov Tribe, Sunglasses
“But besides just winning immunity, I also got to exile someone from Tribal Council tonight, which is literally the single best thing I could have hoped for. Me, Rev, Charlotte, Uncle Vinnie? We’ve been busting our asses here trying to cozy up to the Koryoks to see if we can get someone to flip. Now we just need to get one person on our side,” he says emphatically, holding up a single finger, “and we can flip this game and put ourselves back in the driver’s seat.”

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…”

Sheena- Romanov Tribe
“I know that Olivia doesn’t fully trust me, but like, can you blame me for not trusting her? She flipped on her tribe once, and now Huang handed her a golden opportunity to do it again. So I’m definitely a little freaked out right now that it could be me tonight, because the Yeniseis? They are desperate for someone to come and be on their side, and they’ll vote however Olivia asks them to if they think they can win her over.”

“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.

Sheena- Romanov Tribe
“I do have the immunity idol from Nick, which does make me feel a little better about this situation. If anything seems fishy, well… I’ve got a magic lure to make that fish go away. But I had to jump through some serious hoops to get this sucker, and I don’t know that I want to let go of it if I don’t have to.”

“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.

 

bly8dx

 

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.”

Sheena- Romanov Tribe
“I made a fake deal with Olivia that Nick and I would take her to the final three, just so I could keep her under control. But I don’t know how much trust I have with Olivia, so I need to get the rest of my alliance to do some work here and keep this girl in place.”

“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.”

Tallulah- Romanov Tribe
“It’s crucial that we have five votes locked into place for this Tribal Council, so I am very empathetic to why Sheena doesn’t want to take chances with the whole Olivia situation, but it means putting myself at risk by putting lies out in the game. Maybe this sounds crazy, but sometimes, loyalty means putting yourself in a risky situation because that’s what being loyal means. You put yourself out there to help the people you are loyal to.”

“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.

 

1rnmgz

 

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.”

Tallulah- Romanov Tribe
“Sometimes you have to lie in this game, oops, oh well. Not how I prefer it but you gotta do what you gotta do. I’m just hoping that Olivia was buying what I was selling, but I think I made the right type of pitch for someone like her, someone who likes to have the facts before they act. We can’t afford not to have our tribe in lock step on this vote. I swear, with these Koryoks it can be like herding cats sometimes, so I’m just crossing my fingers that everything goes smoothly tonight.”

 

oyzkxn

 

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.”

Charlotte- Cold Weather
“I think I’ve said everything I can say to Olivia at this point, but there’s more than just me in this alliance. Huang has been working on her, Vincent has been working on her… but I think it’s Zeke who stands the best shot at winning her trust over. That young man has a magical way about him. The truth he tells is so incredibly compelling, I just know he can see through to Olivia’s heart and reach out to her in a way that will mean something to her. One of the things Zeke reminds me about God every day is that God is a forgiving being, and that we can enact that forgiveness ourselves in our daily lives. Olivia and the rest of us Yeniseis can forgive each other, and we can have a second chance to get this right, and I know Zeke can get her to see that.”

 

 

mqpgkg

 

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.

Zeke- Cold Weather
“I’m not good at the lying, cheating, stealing type business of this game, and I mean, I know what I signed up for, but I always knew I couldn’t play that type of game. I have to play the game as me, because if I was gonna play the game some other way, I might as well be some other person. Of the gifts the Lord has given me in my life, one I cherish the most is my ability to love, to do so unconditionally. Loving people is hard. I see it all the time, people, good people, struggling to love. I can only play this game by being who I am, and that means playing with love. So for the sake of my whole tribe, these people who have helped carry me throughout this journey, I just pray I was able to do something to help them out. I just… I hope Olivia can give us some real consideration and see that if she comes back with Yenisei, she will be welcomed with open arms.”

“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.”

Olivia nods.

“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- Romanov Tribe
“You have to take everything you’re told in Survivor with a grain of salt, but I think Zeke is a really genuine, honest person and I think if he were lying to me I’d be able to tell. Zeke is the leader when it comes to Yenisei, he always has been, and I think if he tells Charlotte what to do, she’ll fall in line. So I do feel kind of like as crazy as it is, having Zeke on my side makes working with Yenisei a real possibility. But working with Koryok is possible too, because I’ve had a lot of people offer me deals and tell me they want to work with me deep into this game. I trust Nick, he’s had my back since I got to Koryok, and now Tallulah is telling me she and Maurice want to work with me as well, and she’s been playing a really honest game too. And as much as I maybe shouldn’t, I do trust Sheena. I think she and I would be really good friends outside of this game,  I wish that there was some sort of lab test I could run here that could tell me what to do, but that’s just not possible. Life would be a lot easier if there were, that’s for sure.”

 

0vw1ax

 

            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.

Charlotte nods.

“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.

Charlotte- Cold Weather
“The original Koryoks have really done a great job of making themselves an iron clad group. Olivia is that one person who is maybe on the outs with them, and that means unfortunately for Yenisei, she’s the swing vote tonight. If she had a concrete answer for me, about how she was going to vote? I’d be feeling a lot more confident heading into Tribal Council tonight. But the best answer Olivia has given me is a ‘maybe,’ so… I have no idea how I feel. There is a mixture of hope and dread churning in my stomach right now, and it’s the worst sensation. My nerves right now are a thousand times worse than they were before any pageant I’ve competed in.”

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.

 

 

Tribal Council Night 21

church-7.jpg

 

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.

 

Zeke's Vote- Sheena

Zeke- Cold Weather
“The fire that you have burning inside you is so brightly burning and so inspiring, girl, but fire can kill you, and I’m trying to stay alive, no hard feelings.”

 

 

Sheena's Vote- Zeke

Sheena- Cold Weather
“You should have done a little less praying and a little more playing. You could have won this whole thing and that’s exactly why I need you out of here.”

 
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…”

 

Zeke's Vote- Sheena“Sheena.”

 

Vince's Vote- Sheena“Sheena.”

 

 

Huang's Vote- Sheena“Sheena.”

 

 

Charlotte's Vote- Sheena“Sheena, that’s four votes for Sheena.”

“My name isn’t that hard to spell,” Sheena mutters.

 

 

Sheena's Vote- Zeke“Zeke.”

 

 

Nick's Vote- Zeke“Zeke, that’s two votes Zeke.”

 

 

Tallulah's Vote- Zeke“Zeke.”

 

 

Hannah's Vote- 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…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Olivia's Vote- Zeke“…Zeke.”

“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.

 

Zeke- Cold Weather
“It’s not a happy feeling being out of the game, but it’s what it is, you can’t go back and change it.  If I could make even just the littlest bit of a positive difference in this process, then it’s worth it. I’m really going to miss these people, all of them, even the ones I just met. I’m so blessed that God has given me the opportunity to play this game, to meet this amazing group of humans, and to share with them and the world everything I’ve learned from Him. There are so many opportunities we all have in life, so as much as I wanted to win, I know I have nothing but blessings ahead of me. And tonight, Imma be praying that somehow my Yeniseis can make some magic happen, and I truly believe they can do it. To God goes the glory, and with Him by your side, the limits for what any of us can do are truly sky high. Peace and love, I’m out.”

 

Episode 7 Voting Chart