Ah, hello, there! Yes, come in, come in! Please don’t be alarmed at all the new faces. Indeed, pay no attention to the gentleman standing by the door. Or the one standing behind my shoulder. Or the one cleverly hidden behind the large potted plant over there. No, just a little more to the right of where you’re looking. You’ll probably have to move your head to see him. There you go. Right there. Anyway, I’ve hired them for my protection. As you might imagine, someone in my line of work – especially someone with as sparkling a track record as I’ve established – can quite unintentionally make a number of enemies. A simple revelation of infidelity, for example, can lead to some rather severe unpleasantness if a client’s accused spouse elects to feign innocence. It’s true. I’ve seen it happen before. No, that’s not why these three muscular fellows are in my office today. They’re here in response to a spontaneous vision I had last week. As you can imagine, I am often the recipient of any number of prescient flashes which arrive completely unbidden while I’m engaged in some unassociated activity. In this situation, I was at home, constructing a lovely papier-mache serving bowl, when a message from beyond bore into my cranium like a steel-tipped arrow. I could no more ignore the signal than I could ignore the necessity to breathe. I saw a disturbing image of a prominent local celebrity careening wildly through the mall in a shopping cart, and he was wearing only a helicopter beanie. Well, naturally, I took my story to the press, hoping to avert this painfully embarrassing social disaster. It was only after I gave my interview that I realized the grave danger I’d placed myself in when the story breaks. I’m not sure when the local TV station will decide to air my interview, but I decided it’s better to be safe than sorry when they do. That is why you see these three highly-trained bodyguards stationed around my office today. Don’t worry. They’ve been instructed not to interfere with our reading of the future. And I know you’re very interested in knowing how this week’s episode of Survivor will play out. Come and sit down. You can move Mr. Armstrong’s sack lunch out of your chair while I gaze into my cracked crystal ball. Ah, I see this week’s title already crackling into existence deep within. It’s
Ever Won A Gyro?
It’s late evening of Day 12 in the Pearl Islands. Six shadowy figures are seated around a crackling fire on Morgan Beach. One of these figures is much larger than the others, and it has its arms folded in a posture of defiance. It’s Rupert, prisoner of the Morgans, and the other tribe members are all taking turns trying to pump him for information about the Drake tribe.
“Who’s your leader?” Andrew asks sharply.
“Who’s your daddy?” Rupert replies.
“Have you guys found any fish in this barren, lifeless part of the ocean?” Osten asks.
“We eat twigs and rocks,” Rupert growls.
“Wot wuz eeyin the trayzher ba’ox?” a female voice inquires from the darkness.
Rupert’s arms unfold and his head snaps sharply in the direction of the voice in the shadows. A face leans out of the darkness and into the flickering light of the fire. It’s Darrah, and, as usual, she’s bitter and angry. Rupert takes a deep breath and wipes his forehead with two fingers. “You shouldn’t scare people like that!” he rumbles. “I had no idea you were there.”
Ryan gazes affectionately at Darrah’s perturbed countenance, then continues her line of questioning. “But the treasure?” he asks. “What was in it?”
Rupert’s composure restored, he folds his arms again and stares contemptuously at Ryan. “A jack-in-the-box,” he replies with a mischievous grin. “And more sand. And...” He leans toward Ryan with a conspiratorial look in his eye. “...your mama.”
Ryan lurches to his feet angrily and yells a few incoherent insults at Rupert, who is rocking back and laughing heartily. Ryan takes a threatening step in Rupert’s direction, but Andrew and Osten immediately stand and hold him back. Ryan opens his mouth to speak when they all hear singing and laughter from out on the water. Everyone stands and stares out to sea, their backs to the fire to allow their eyes to adjust to the darkness. Presently, they see a boat take shape in the gloomy distance. The boat rides up on the sand, and a person leaps out and drags it further up the beach. The person is singing George Thorogood’s “Bad To The Bone,” but he’s painfully off-key. After securing his boat, he turns and spots the six dark forms backlit by the fire. He stops singing and waves.
“Hello, my droogies!” Jon calls out gaily. “Put another log on the fire! Jonny Fairplay is here!” He giggles and boogies his way up the beach.
The Morgans glance at Rupert in curiosity. The big man shrugs in obvious confusion. “Maybe he got voted out,” he suggests, his voice filled with hope.
Jon has made his way to the fire and is warming himself in front of the flames. “Voted out?” he scoffs. “Not a chance! I’m The Puppetmaster!” He raises his hands and wiggles his fingers as if working the strings on a marionette. “I can’t believe how easy this game really is. It’s a joke!” He snorts and wipes his nose. “You guys have any fish? I’m starving.”
The Morgans continue to look at Rupert, as if only he can comprehend the bizarre behavior of the little man by the fire. Rupert clears his throat and asks the question on everyone’s mind. “Jon, why are you such an idiot?”
Jon looks at Rupert sharply. “What did you say?” he asks, his voice cold and hard.
“I said what are you doing here?” Rupert replies smoothly.
Jon squints suspiciously. After a couple of moments, however, he grins and slaps Rupert on the back. “I thought you said something else!” he bellows. “Guess that wine really has me messed up.”
“What wine?” everyone asks in unison.
“From the treasure chest!” Jon exclaims. “Rupe! Didn’t you tell them about the treasure? The stinking, festering, spoiled treasure? But at least there was chocolate and wine. I brought some with m-”
Before Jon can complete his sentence, the Morgans rush him and pin him to the ground. They frisk him thoroughly and turn all his pockets inside out. When they’ve finished, Osten lifts Jon up by his ankles and shakes him vigorously before casting him aside, where he lands face-first in the sand.
“Nothing,” he grumbles, staring at Andrew as if awaiting orders to finish off the scrawny guy.
Jon groans and rolls over onto his back. He coughs up sand. “I came here to steal Rupert back. I thought we’d share the supplies on the way back to camp.”
The Morgans disappear in a flash, their footsteps resounding behind them as if a herd of wild horses had taken their place. Rupert stays behind and glares at Jon. “What is the matter with you?” he growls as a delighted cheer erupts from the direction of the boat. “This is the enemy. And they’re eating our hard-won treats. If we were real pirates, I’d bury you in an anthill right now. I might do that, anyway.”
Jon grins foolishly. “Rupe, man. Relax. They’ll never find the really good stuff I brought. I hid it in a box which I tied to the back of the boat.”
From the darkness, Andrew calls, “Look, guys! A rope! And a box!” A few seconds later, another roar of pleasure breaks the calm of the night.
The party cha-chas its way back up the beach, drinking wine and wolfing down bon-bons. Osten is wrapped in the huge blanket from the previous week’s Reward Challenge.
“You brought the bedding?!” Rupert yells at Jon.
“I was thinking I’d take a nap while you rowed us home, big fella!” Jon delivers a thumbs-up from his prone position.
Rupert throws his head back and roars in frustration. Then he looks at Andrew and growls, “I say we keep this scallywag as our slave until the Reward Challenge. I’ve got no use for him.”
The tribe cheers excitedly. “Getting Rupert is the best thing that could’ve happened to us!” Ryan exclaims.
“Rupe!” Jon wails in despair as Andrew and Osten put Jon to work repairing the floor of the shelter. “Ruuuuupe!”
The next day, the Drakes are very late arriving at Snapping Sharkduck Beach Challenge Bay. Jeff scowls at them testily when they finally show up, all of them completely soaked. The tribe ignores him, focusing instead on the cowering figure of Jon, who is trying to hide behind Rupert on the Morgan mat. “Ah, there you are, Jon,” Christa says in a bored, matter-of-fact voice. “We thought you were dead.”
Jeff looks at her inquisitively. “You did? Why didn’t you say anything to the crew?”
She shrugs. “Forgot, I guess.”
Jeff thinks on the matter for a while, then nods his head. “Yeah, I can see that,” he says. “Still, I’m very displeased with you guys for arriving so late to the Challenge. Don’t think I’ve forgotten that.” He points at each member of Drake in turn.
“Don’t talk to us about that!” Sandra snaps. “We just swam all the way here because we don’t have a boat anymore. Why don’t you ask him why.” She points at the tiny plume of blond hair poking out from behind Rupert’s waist.
For the first time, Jeff notices that Jon isn’t on the right mat. “Hey! Fairplay! What’re you doing over there? Get on your own mat!”
Jon scampers over to the Drake mat and hides behind Michelle. “They’re mean!” he squeaks.
Jeff throws his hands in the air. “What in the blazes is going on around here?!” he cries.
Rupert quickly fills Jeff in on the details of Jon’s moonlight ride and subsequent enslavement. “Oh, that is great stuff!” Jeff laughs afterward. “I wish we’d thought of it ourselves so we could’ve manipulated you, but this is even better!” He chuckles some more, then takes a deep breath and begins clapping. “Morgan tribe, I salute you! I wish I could just give you the Reward right now, but the rules require us to play it out. Too bad. On the bright side, today’s Challenge fits nicely into the events of the past day, as you’ll see. OK, so with Rupert’s temporary addition to the Morgan tribe, both tribes have six members. What you’re going to do is - ”
“Um, excuse me?” Sandra interrupts Jeff. “We actually have seven. Well, six and a half, actually.”
“Oh, that’s right!” Jeff says. “I’m getting ahead of myself. Jon, you’re out of this competition. We’ve prepared a special seat for you from which you can watch all the action. It’s right over there.” Jeff points to a recessed area in the trees, within which is a giant dunk tank. “It’s time for you to walk the plank, Matey.” He grins evilly.
“Hey, that’s not fair!” Jon complains as Survivor Security steps out of the jungle and escorts him to the dunk tank. His name is painted on the seat and is briefly visible until the guards shove him into place. Jeff guides the rest of the tribes over to the dunk tank and stands in front of a long rectangular object covered in a sheet.
“OK, very simple game today,” Jeff says. “Each member of your tribe gets a wooden ball. Everyone will stand behind this line about five yards away. One throw for each of you. If you hit the bullseye on the target of the dunk tank, Jon’s seat collapses and he walks the plank. Or, I guess technically, the plank disappears and he plunges into the water. Same difference, really. The team that makes Jon walk the plank the most times wins Reward. Wanna know what you’re playing for?”
“I don’t,” Jon says.
Jeff reaches back without looking and pushes the bullseye, dropping Jon into the water. “Well, there’s the usual chance to loot the other tribe’s camp. And for Morgan, you’re competing for the first portion of your treasure map. In addition, I know how boring it can be around camp during the day and especially at night. So today, we have this.” He whisks aside the sheet, revealing a 50-inch high-definition plasma television. The Survivors yell excitedly and jump up and down, hugging one another. “That’s right,” Jeff says, reaching behind the television and retrieving a chain saw. “You’ll be playing for one-third of this beautiful plasma TV.”
He pulls a pair of safety goggles out of his shirt pocket, slips them over his sunglasses, and cranks up the saw. He places the blade on top of the television about a foot in from the left side and begins cutting. Plastic bits arc over his head as the saw works its way through the outer casing, then it hits the screen itself, which spider-webs, then explodes outward in a shower of small glass particles. Jeff shakes his head vigorously, sending glass and plastic flying in all directions. He follows the ragged cut all the way to the bottom of the television, crouching to complete the incision. The left third of the TV falls sideways and lands with a resounding crunch before rolling backwards and settling in the sand. He repeats the process with the right side, then turns off the chain saw. He turns to look at the stunned Survivors, who are staring, slack-jawed, at the wreckage of the television. Osten is crying. “You can pick which third you want, of course,” Jeff says. “The other segments will be available in future Reward Challenges. All right. Survivors ready? Go!”
Jon has climbed back into his chair and is waiting sullenly for the first throw. Andrew gets the first throw for the Morgans and just nicks the edge of the bullseye. It’s a sensitive target, though, and Jon goes down into the tank again. He surfaces, spluttering and coughing, and regains his chair. “One point for Morgan!” Jeff shouts. “Let’s keep it going, people!”
Sandra steps up and delivers a perfect strike to the top of Jon’s head. The ball ricochets off his skull with a hollow-sounding pwock! sound. “Yow!” Jon yells, rubbing his head. “Why doesn’t this thing have one of those protective screens?!”
“Don’t know,” Jeff says. “Oversight, I guess. All right. One point each for Morgan and Drake. Rupert, you’re next.”
“Hey!” Jon yells again. “Why did they get a point?! OW!” Rupert’s wooden ball whistles into the tank and pelts Jon in the stomach. “Come on!”
“Two points, Morgan.”
The tribes alternate with their throws, sometimes going for the bullseye, sometimes going after Jon directly. Ultimately, it’s down to Osten and Michelle with Morgan clinging to a one-point lead.
“All right, Osten,” Jeff says. “You can put this thing away. Let’s see what you can do.”
Osten winds up and delivers a sizzling fastball that soars over the tank and disappears into the trees. He hangs his head in frustration. Andrew steps up and claps him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, old chum,” he says. “We still need your strength. You’re our greatest weapon in the challenges. Well done.”
Michelle steps up. “Here’s the situation,” Jeff says. “If Michelle gets a point, we go to Sudden Death Overtime. And, believe me, Jon, you don’t want any part of that. If she misses, Morgan wins Reward. Go ahead, Michelle.”
Michelle aims carefully and unleashes a terrific throw right at the bullseye. Right before it hits, however, Jeff swats it down. “Morgan wins!” he cries. As Drake yells in protest, Jeff raises a hand to calm them. “Come on, guys. They earned it. They enslaved Jon, for heaven’s sake.” The furor from the Drake tribe dies down, and slowly they all begin to nod. As Jon attempts to climb off his seat to rejoin his tribe, Jeff punches the bullseye, sending Jon backwards into the tank one last time. Jeff laughs and points.
As soon as Jon finally gets out of the tank, the Drakes climb into the boat he brought back from Morgan camp and head home. The Morgans gather the left third of the television and their first piece of the treasure map and depart. Jeff, still smiling, takes one last, lingering look at the dunk tank, then heads off into the jungle with his hands in his pockets.
Later that day, the Morgans decide to send Rupert to loot the Drakes. “First of all, he deserves credit for helping us win that Challenge,” Andrew reasons with his tribe after Rupert heads off in the boat with Jeff. “It was his idea, after all, to enslave Jon. And secondly, this is brilliant strategy. His tribe will think he’s turned his back on them completely when he shows up to pillage their camp!” He chuckles delightedly and rubs his hands together. “Good-bye, Rupert,” he hisses in a voice of pure evil.
After what seems like just a few minutes, Rupert returns, carrying a bundle of fabric under his arm. The rest of the Morgans are gathered around the TV, watching the shorn wires inside blowing back and forth in the wind. When Rupert walks up the beach, they hop up and crowd around him.
“What’s in there, Rupert?” Osten asks. “The fishing spear?”
“Is it our tarp?” Tijuana asks.
“We sure could use that other pot for our water,” Ryan says.
“It’s my old dress,” Rupert says, dumping the dirty floral mound of material on the sand. “I figured Osten could use it. His teeth chatter at night. Gotta run. Jeff’s waiting to take me back to my tribe. See you at the Immunity Challenge.” He heads back down the beach and re-boards the boat with Jeff. The Morgans silently watch the boat disappear in the distance.
When it completely disappears, Osten bends down and scoops up Rupert’s dress. “Maybe if I took it in a little bit,” he suggests, holding it up to his waist.
The tribes meet again the next day at Snappy Sharkhenge Baying Challduck Beach. Jeff is waiting for them behind a long deli counter. He’s wearing a white coat and a tall white chef’s cap. “Welcome to today’s Immunity Challenge,” he says, waving a spatula in the air. “In case you couldn’t tell by my outfit, it’s now time for the dreaded Food Challenge!” He narrows his eyes and examines the group for its reaction. Apparently unsatisfied with their level of revulsion, he emphasizes the point. “Just to clarify, it’s the dreaded Gross Food Challenge!” A few of the Survivors make faces and shift around uncomfortably. “OK, that’s better. Now everyone knows pirates had to go around eating stuff every day. Without food, especially sandwiches, they’d die. One day, one of the many thousands of Pearl Island pirates veered drastically off course and found himself off the coast of Greece. And it was there that he discovered the classic Grecian delicacy, the gyro.” He holds up a pita sandwich. The Survivors reflexively lurch forward to get a whiff. Jeff smiles and takes a big bite of the sandwich. “Ever won a gyro?” he asks, grinning into the camera with his cheeks full of food.
After the Survivors indicate that they have, in fact, never won a gyro, Jeff sets the sandwich aside and swallows. He licks his teeth and wipes his lower lip before speaking again. “Well, you’re not going to win one today, either. Come on, guys. Remember why you’re here, huh?” He grabs the Immunity Skull-Axe from Andrew and delivers a tremendous chop to the nearest tree, burying the head of the axe to the hilt, its shaft parallel to the ground and quivering wildly. “Immunity. Back up for grabs. Here’s how it’s going to work. We’ve prepared each of you a gross gyro. I don’t know even know what’s inside each one. Some disgusting crawly stuff indigenous to the area, no doubt. The pitas themselves aren’t even real bread. I can’t remember if they said it was seagull skin or poison oak bark. Something like that. Anyway, it’s all edible, just barely. There will probably be severe pain somewhere along the way, either in eating it, digesting it, or expelling it. Maybe all three. Some of you may actually face death, but we’re pretty sure you’ll survive the experience. Heck, that’s the name of the show, right? Anyway, it’s pretty simple. If you refuse to eat the sandwich, you’re out. If you can’t eat it all, you’re out. And if your body rejects any of the sandwich – even up to a minute after you’ve gotten it all down – you’re out. The tribe that consumes the highest number of these vile gyros wins Immunity. Drake, you need to sit two people. And, Jon, since we’ve been pretty harsh on you in the past as far as sitting out Challenges, you get to participate in this one.”
“Thanks,” Jon grumbles, his face white.
Sandra and Shawn step aside as the other Survivors step up to the bar. Jeff begins distributing the grotesque gyros. Each one is a pale yellow in color, and the surface of the “pita” appears to be veiny. Something sloshes around inside the pocket when Jeff sets it down, and a bluish-gray liquid dribbles from the bottom. The stench is overpowering, and every fly in Panama appears to have discovered the sandwiches. Most just buzz around the sandwiches excitedly, but a few crawl inside and disappear. Jeff reaches under the counter to serve the tenth gyro to Ryan, but he can’t find it. He bends down and looks at the shelf underneath, which is empty. “That’s odd,” Jeff murmurs. “I know we started with ten.” He gets down on hands and knees and looks under the counter. Still nothing.
“Uh, Jeff,” Andrew says. “Is...that it?” He points to the gyro Jeff set aside earlier, the one with the giant bite taken out of the middle.
“No, I don’t think so,” Jeff says nervously, standing up and peering at it. “Oh. Wait. Yes, I believe you’re right. Oh....god.” Jeff’s shoulders heave up and his cheeks puff out. “Um, oh geez. I, uh...I gotta...” He shoves the sandwich in front of Ryan, then chokes out, “Survivorsreadygo” before sprinting into the woods.
Michelle and Osten drop out immediately, neither one taking a bite. Ryan and Andrew sample theirs. Their eyes bug out, and they spit the remains back onto the counter. This causes Tijuana, who was examining her gyro carefully, to let out a little scream and dart away from the counter. Trish closes her eyes, pinches her nose, and takes a juicy bite which sprays out the sides of her mouth and splatters Jon, who shrieks and passes out. Trish chews valiantly but ultimately surrenders to the sandwich. Christa determinedly plows through about half of her gyro before her knees buckle. She retches loudly from beneath the counter. Rupert tears at his sandwich ferociously, chewing and swallowing at once. He has one bite left when Shawn suddenly bursts out laughing. “Look at his beard!” he laughs. “I love how food always gets stuck in his beard.” Rupert glares at him, then glances down to see a rainbow of liquid color dribbling in his beard hair. This seemingly harmless peek has the surprising result that Rupert is no longer able to hold down his Gyro of Doom. He dashes into the trees, passing a wobbly and white-faced Jeff, who is carrying his white chef’s coat in a tight wad in his left hand.
“So that’s it, huh?” Jeff asks. “Nobody was able to eat one?”
“Wait!” Osten yells. “What about her?”
“Who?” Jeff asks.
Osten points to Darrah, still sitting at the end of the deli counter and just now popping the final bite of her gyro into her mouth. She chews slowly and demurely, dabbing at the corners of her mouth with a napkin. Then she opens her mouth and reveals that the gyro is completely gone.
Jeff stares at her in shocked disgust. “Immunity to Morgan,” he proclaims weakly. “And I truly can’t believe it.”
The next night, before Tribal Council, the Drakes agree to vote out the weak and unpleasant Jon. They’re all extremely shocked, then, to see Shawn get voted out 6-1. Jon laughs uproariously as Shawn’s torch is extinguished. “Long live The Puppetmaster!” he shouts.
Shawn looks back at the group in confusion, then catches sight of Rupert and begins laughing. “Hey, Rupert, check out your dress!” he says.
“Hey, Shawn,” Rupert says. “Check out your torch.” He smiles and waves as Shawn shuffles into the darkness.
And the visions are gone. I hope you can return next week to discuss the next episode. I’m sure my bodyguards will do everything in their power to ensure I’m still here. Farewell, my friend!
Your comments are welcome. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.