It was the worst of times; it was the worst of times.
The Morgan tribe awoke on Day 7, running low on spirits and souls. The night before they had rid themselves of Skinny Ryan, no doubt fearing a future Colby-like immunity run, but some of them were now beginning to regret it. Morale was at an all-time low and would remain so for several hours until the reward challenge when it sank even lower. Many on the Morgan tribe were even starting to suspect that they weren't really doing a photo shoot after all, and that the game had actually started.
They dealt with their misery in different ways. Andrew, the "leader" (though not for long, as he trails Arnie in the recall polls), continued his habit of stating the very very obvious, such as "losing sucks" and "I hate this tribe" and "so this is it, we're going to die."
Osten spent the morning reminding his tribemates how much fun he's having and how happy he is to be here and that anything he may have previously said to the contrary was just rehearsal for an off-Broadway show. Lillian prayed (as Scouts are apt to do), hoping against hope that God would show them an ounce of mercy, even though He's probably far away, scouting locations for Eco-Challenge. Darrah invested some time in perfecting her Wiccan love charm on Andrew. And once again, Ryan O was ill and could not attend.
The Drake tribe seemed to be in a slightly more jovial mood. With their aqua buffs and dominant winning streaks, I became suspicious and increased the resolution on my HDTV. Sure enough, my guess was accurate: Drake is, in fact, Rotu, pretending to be new castaways. The General is Rupert, Gabe plays Jon Dalton, and Marquesan mastermind John Carroll is balancing a dual role, playing two characters: a guy named Shawn and a guy named Burton, which helped to explain why the two men are never seen in the same place at the same time.
Drake decided to go find their buried treasure. The one piece of map they had was vague, saying only that it was buried under a big V next to the remains of Chester Copperpot, and could only be found by sticking the golden scepter into the model city on the vernal equinox. "That means it's on that peninsula!" Trish declared, and they ran down the beach, shovels in hand, past the beached whales and the Chuay Gahn canoes washed ashore, and the signposts which read "Danger: Peninsula Contains Giant Sinkholes. Do Not Dig." After ten minutes of digging, the treasure is found, at which point the cameras stop rolling and the producers emerge to take the chest away, this time to hide it in a better place.
At this point Ma Survivor came out onto the porch and rang the challenge bell, and the tribes met to play for reward. Probst explained the rules: Sink the other tribe's boats. "And no splashing!" he admonished. Groans erupted among the players.
"Wanna know what you're playing for?" Jeffy asked the Drake tribe, and gestured toward a pile of mattresses and pillows. "They're real nice and soft. Me and Mark had a slumber party with 'em last night, and we had a pillow fight and watched scary movies and ate Oreos and did each other's hair and called boys we liked and hung up on them and played Truth or Dare and I made Mark eat a bug! ...speaking of which, I'd remember that in a few weeks if I were you."
The challenge played out as most expected. The Morgan boats ganged up on a Drake boat and managed to sink it, while the other Drake boat, consisting of Rupert and two of his tribemates, drifted idly in the corner of the ring. But as the Morgans edged over to them, Rupert became enraged, and standing tall on the bow, he raised his fists and let out a hallowing primordial yell. Tijuana screamed and dove off her boat, while Darrah simply fainted from the excitement. As for the other boat, Rupert simply brought down a fist and punched a hole in it, sinking it in seconds.
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Fourteen Survivors went into the sea when the challenge began. Only one boat came back.
Though the pillows were nice, and could conceal many jerkies and granola bars, all was not serene at the Drake tribe. Jon began to shout at Sandra. Sandra began to shout at Jon. They began to shout at each other, and this went on for several minutes, intertwined with cuts to their tribemates looking concerned, though this was probably an editing trick, and more likely than not they were all standing around laughing at the quarrelers. "I walked away because she could argue all day," claims Jon, which was an odd thing to say, since he flinched noticeably as soon as Sandra stood up. The argument died down, and the tribe went back about its business, knowing that the drama would probably reveal itself in future voting, regardless of the fact that nobody ever hinted at just what the hell the fight was about.
Separated at birth? Hint: "Pokey" is the one with the axe.
Meanwhile, Morgan was -- *surprise!* -- moping around camp. They all agreed that Rupert was the source of their woes, and would be an excellent target to blame for everything, and next time they met him they all vowed to give him the glowering of his life.
Lillian, the mature one, left the camp early the next morning to go fishing alone. She sat at the edge of the rocky shore, wallowing in self-pity. "I miss Ryan," she pouted. "I miss my husband. I miss my troop. I miss a change of socks." All this, of course, is in the Scout's Oath. Suddenly a tug came at her line. She leapt to her feet and, seizing the pole, fought mightily with her prey, and after a brief struggle, pulled a majestic, shimmering fish out of the ocean. The fish wriggled off the hook and fell to the rock, but rather than flop around helplessly, it stood straight on its tail and looked up at the astonished Lillian. It blinked twice, then spoke in a high-toned but practiced English.
"Oi! Who be ye who pulls the magic fish from the sea?"
"Uh, um..." Lillian stammered.
"Strange are the tongues of men, and their maidens fair," the fish continued. "Or be ye unaccustomed to the seagoing folk of the deep, ancient world, of whom few remain to sing their histories, and of whom fewer still wander beyond their hidden kingdom to brave the shallow waters of the dry earth, and from whom I boast my heritage?"
"Uh, um..." Lillian stammered again. She shot a worried glance at the camp, but everyone was still asleep.
"Well met, lady of the crimson hair. Your words do me honor and I will honor you thusly. Right with the customs of my people I offer you this. Rather than be captured by you and taken to your simmering pot to be fed to your king, I will beg you spare my life and allow me to swim away unchallenged. In return, I will grant you one wish, whatever wish your fair heart desires. Think fast, what shall it be?"
Lillian composed herself immediately. To be granted any one wish was much better than catching a lousy fish, she thought.
"Very well, Master Fish," she replied. "I shall exchange my breakfast for the fulfillment of my heart's desire. For I am wont of many things beyond one simple meal this day. I am starving, yes, but I need also a shelter to protect from the wind and rain, and strength to overcome obstacles and defeat my enemies, and friends to comfort and guide me for these thirty-nine days of my exile from the world. So what I wish is this: I wish to be the Sole Survivor. I wish to face the jury of my fallen comrades as they judge me the better deserving of the bounty. I wish to be the final player standing, alone, as alone as this last fishing hook, as alone as I am right now."
The fish thought for a moment. Then it looked at the fishing hook dangling from the pole, and then back to Lillian.
"You say that's the only hook you have to fish with?" it asked her. Lillian nodded.
Suddenly the fish leapt up and tore the hook from the line with its jaws, and bounded back into the ocean. "Bye!" it called, and was gone.
The Drake tribe sent Christa to loot the Morgans. "Remember, take something they need!" they told her. "Like their water pot. Or their fishing hook." Christa arrived at the Morgan camp, which more resembled Ethiopia than the Pearl Islands, and looked around. Tijuana was more than happy to help.
"You can have anything you want. Anything except the frying pan. Any item you desire, between the shovel and the fishnet. Anything in this space right here, above the twigs but below the dirty laundry. Anything in this...little space...right here, that's including the string but not the pebble."
Andrew was even happier to help Christa, dogging her every step and prancing eagerly around her like a puppy being walked. "Here's the campfire, that's where we cook things, and here's the shelter, that's where we sleep, and this is my buff, I use it as a pillow, would you like to have my buff? Cuz you can have it, you know, I don't mind, gosh you're pretty."
The treemail arrived for the immunity challenge. It told them to pick their strongest player. Andrew immediately chose Osten. "Osten's strong," he said. "We're definitely going to win this challenge. I can't think of anyone on the other tribe who even looks strong. Osten doesn't want to quit or anything, so his heart will be completely in the game."
The challenge required the strongest players of each tribe, Osten and what's-his-name, to pull a rope to keep their tribemates from falling into the ocean. Osten did indeed hold out a long time, straining and throwing every ounce of energy he could muster into holding that rope, while Rupert simply tied his rope around his finger and just sat there, rocking back and forth and muttering to himself. After a valiant struggle, Osten finally could take no more and gave in. As a result CBS abandoned its plans to hire Rush Limbaugh as an Early Show correspondent.
Morgan prepared once more for the looming vote. Andrew revealed an alliance of everyone except Lillian and Darrah, and the debate was which of the two stragglers would be the next to go. Much of the argument, in grand Survivor tradition, centered on which name was easier to spell.
At Tribal Council, Probst motioned for the tribe to sit, and was silent for several moments afterward, scanning their faces solemnly. Then he pointed at them and burst out laughing, laughing so hard he fell off his stool. He rollicked on the floor clutching his sides until a sound technician entered the Council and doused the host with a bucket of water. Probst slowly regained his composure and sat on his stool again.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I dunno what came over me. Anyway...snicker...how you guys doin'? Catch up to those '62 Mets yet?"
The standard questions began. Tijuana asserted that Morgan was a better tribe, a more unified tribe, except when they were awake. Ryan O (or "Rhino" according to Jeffy, who has animal nicknames for every player, especially certain players from Australia) agreed, assuring Probst that once they voted out a few more people the tribe would be unified and resolute. Darrah was asked several questions but did not answer, complaining about "the vapors".
Then came the shocking unanimous vote for Lillian, and indeed it was truly unexpected since Lillian actually was the player edited as the one to go this episode. Jeff attempted to snuff her torch, but the flame did not go out. "Hmm, they don't want to see you go," he smirked. "That's the third Tribal Council in a row where you've done that, Probst," Lillian snapped back. "Put it out and get me the hell out of here."
"For God's sake, Probst! That's 37 takes!
You're only supposed to snuff it part way, then say the line! Okay, action!"
And she walked off, out of the Council and down the beach where the boat to Loser Lodge awaited her. As she was sped away from the island, never to return, she was unaware that she was still being watched, not by a camera crew, but by a small fish peering silently out of the wind-carved ocean waves. A fish with a debt to repay.
And a hook to return.