Oh, what a relief! You’ve found me! That is to say, I knew you’d locate me here, but I wasn’t sure if it would be in time to find out about the next episode of Survivor. Since last we spoke, I was offered a unique opportunity to ply my trade with a traveling circus which was in dire need of a new fortune teller. A burly and personable young man who was in the employ of the show happened to pop in for a palm interpretation. I foresaw in one of the more obscure lines of his hand that he would injure his back in the next few days by using an improper lifting technique. Two days later, I saw the man again, only this time he was in a wheelchair. The man pushing him into my office was the circus manager, who offered me the vacant seer position on the spot. I informed him that I would only accept such a post if I was given full latitude to tend to my extensive Survivor clientele. We dickered and haggled for quite some time before I finally agreed upon lower wages in exchange for a private tent and a higher degree of freedom. My friend the strong man was disappointed that we wouldn’t be sharing a tent, but he understood the demands of my successful business. And so, as you no doubt deduced from the notice tacked to my office door, I will be on the road with Zickerington’s Traveling Freak Show for the next couple of weeks. I’ve been advised not to take offense at that name. I guess it refers to some of the other members of the staff but not to me. I don’t doubt it’s also a big revenue generator. I mean, who would want to miss an opportunity to see a bunch of freaks? Speaking of which, I know you’re here to get caught up on the next episode of Survivor. So let’s get right to it. Pull up a folding chair and let’s gaze together into my cracked crystal ball. Ah, the familiar swirling, multi-colored letters are taking shape within. I see the title of this week’s episode. It’s
It’s a cold and foggy night in the Pearl Islands. Since departing Tribal Council hours ago, the weary Drake tribe has been paddling continuously in a fruitless effort to find their way home. The dense fog has made it completely impossible to navigate, but the tribe, eager to return to their beds and sleep off the misery of the day, presses on.
A break in the fog reveals a distant beach. The tribe swings the boat around and paddles furiously toward the shore. “Even if this isn’t our island,” Sandra says, “I think we should just build a shelter and spend the night here.” The others nod in mute agreement.
Within minutes, the boat grinds onto the beach. Rupert leaps over the bow and drags the vessel a few more feet out of the water. He grabs the mooring line and looks about for something sturdy upon which to fasten the boat. He inches forward in the fog with one hand extended to ward off unseen obstacles in the impenetrable darkness. Suddenly, his outstretched hand touches the soft fabric of a hat. Rupert gasps and withdraws his hand. At the same moment, the fog overhead shifts, exposing a ray of moonlight which illuminates a pale face staring at him.
Rupert yells and quickly back-pedals, but his feet give way in the sand, and he tumbles onto his back. The pale face smiles and speaks. It’s Lill. “Burton said you would come,” she whispers in wonderment. “And here you are.”
The other Survivors climb out of the boat and stand near Rupert, who’s still sitting in the sand and staring at Lill. “Dudes!” Jon laughs. “It’s that dorky Scout lady! Sucks to be her!”
Lill cocks her head in the direction of Jon’s voice. “Hello, Annoying Man,” she says. “I trust I will be seeing you again soon.” Her voice is distant and monotonic. Her eyes are unfocused on anything in front of her.
“What is this place?” Christa asks, her voice tremulous with fear and uncertainty.
“Go further in,” Lill breathes. “There you will find the answers you seek.” She raises a hand and points one finger behind her without looking in that direction.
The Survivors move carefully up the beach in the direction indicated by Lill. They huddle close to one another, their heads swiveling back and forth, straining to identify the source of the shadowy movements on the periphery of their vision. Presently, they arrive at a long, low stone structure on the edge of the jungle. The building, constructed entirely of piles of loose stones, looks awkward and unstable. The Survivors can faintly hear ukulele music playing within.
“Hm,” says Trish somberly. “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”
A trim, balding man is tending a campfire beside the stone building. He slowly turns his head to view the Survivors, then raises a hand silently in greeting. Bits of flesh hang from his hand.
“What is this place?!” Christa repeats, her voice rising in terror.
The man by the campfire smiles. “Welcome to The Isle of Lost Survivors,” he intones. “I am Michael.”
At that moment, a petite woman emerges from the stone structure. She’s wearing shorts and a Drake buff as a tube top.
“Michelle!” Shawn cries. “What’s going on?”
Michelle slowly approaches the group, her arms extended, one leg dragging in the sand behind her. “They said you’d come,” she murmurs. “Take me back into the game. I promise I’ll fake my disgust this time. I won’t drink it all in one gulp. Take me back. Please take me back.”
The Survivors retreat, their faces pale. “What’s happened to her?” Rupert yells.
“She’s still unsettled,” Michael says. “Her series is still airing so she has a chance to get back into the game. The rest of us are done. We must stay here and welcome newcomers. Sonja is entertaining the group as we speak.” He gestures at the stone building with a flesh-flopping hand. “Would you like to enter Debb’s shelter and listen to the music? It’s enchanting.” A woman’s high-pitched crooning can now be heard rising in harmony with the strains of the ukulele. A rock slips down the side of the shelter, and the entire structure appears to wobble as if it’s about to collapse.
“I think we need to get out of here,” Sandra says. “Now.”
Suddenly, a woman in a blue tube dress emerges from the trees. She shuffles urgently in their direction. “The game. Return me to the game. I promise I won’t strategize.” Nicole stumbles over a tree branch but recovers her balance and keeps coming.
“No, take me,” says Burton, stepping out from behind a large boulder. “I will help you win the Challenges. All of them. We won’t lose again. Take me.” He falls in step beside Michelle and Nicole. All three of them reach eagerly for the group of Drakes. A hand explodes out of the sand.
“Run!” Trish yells. The group turns and sprints for the boat.
“Wait!” Ryan Shoulders calls as he pushes his way out of the hole in the beach where he was hiding. “I want to swim again. I can do better. Take me.”
The Drakes arrive at the beach, but the boat is missing. A delirious cackle of glee can be heard out on the ocean.
“Lill!” Rupert roars. “She took our boat.”
The Lost Survivors are nearly on top of them. Their faces are stuck in ferocious snarls. Their fingers clench in anticipation of grabbing a Survivor.
“Come on!” Sandra calls, diving into the water. “We have to get our boat!”
The rest of the Drakes join her. They swim powerfully out into the foggy water. In just a few seconds, they can see the shadowy outline of their boat. Lill is seated in the middle, her head thrown back in laughter. She’s not rowing, just sitting. The Survivors easily overtake the aimlessly drifting vessel and climb over the sides. Lill stares at them blankly. “Now you’ll take me back,” she says in an awed voice. “I can play again. Right?”
“Wrong,” Rupert says, throwing Lill over the side of the boat. “Go play with your friends.”
“It’s not fair,” Lill moans as she swims back to shore. “I was in the boat. I was free. It’s not fair.” She disappears into the fog, and eventually, her voice can no longer heard.
The Drakes look at each other as a group of people who have survived a shared ordeal tend to do. Then they gather oars and begin paddling. The fog is starting to break up, and before long, they’re home.
The next morning dawns too quickly for the Drakes, who must immediately head out to Snapshark Challenge Pingduck Bay Beach for the Reward Challenge. Jeff and the Morgans await them. Jeff is standing in front of an enormous black wall. He’s holding a bucket in one hand and a 10-pound barbell weight in the other. “Welcome to today’s Reward Challenge,” he says. “Drakes, I’m very pleased to see you. I heard we nearly lost you in the fog last night. Hope you liked what you saw. For nearly everyone standing here today, you’ll be heading back there before we’re all finished here.” He chuckles evilly as the Morgans furrow their eyebrows in confusion and the Drakes stare at him in wide-eyed horror.
“OK,” Jeff says. “Let’s talk Reward. As everyone should know by now, this one’s going to be about pirates. Seriously, if any of you don’t know that at this point, you’d better keep it to yourself because I will kill you where you stand.” He glares at Jon, who appears confused at the pirate tie-in. “Anyway, one thing pirates tended to do quite a bit was get into fights with other boats. Today, we’re going to have a little pirate boat battle, Survivor-style. Anybody here ever play Battleship?” Every hand in the group goes up. “Excellent. Well, behind me is the Survivor Battleship board. You’ll see that the board itself has a large grid on each side. That grid matches the roped-off grid sections in the sand at the base of the board. See?” He points on either side of the giant black wall, revealing a rope grid staked to the ground which forms a 10x10 arrangement of squares between the rope edges. “Five of you for each tribe will lay along those squares, simulating the various boats in your tribe’s fleet. Then the tribes will take turns calling out grid locations, hoping to locate the other team’s boats. If you pick a square that is not taken by an opposing tribe member, you’ll hear a splash. If you hit something, you’ll hear a grunt. Each square must be hit for a Survivor to sink. Once one tribe has sunk each of the other’s boats, they win Reward. Now we snuck into your camps last night and drugged you so we could collect your heights. If Sandra sits out, it’ll be perfect. We need Jon’s tiny stature to even things out. Everybody understand?” The Survivors nod. “Want to know what you’re playing for?” The nodding continues, making the group look like a collection of bobble-head dolls. Jeff points at a pile off to one side. “Another third of the big-screen plasma television; a piece of the map, if you need it; and a bunch of junk some of us found one day while we were out beachcombing. You know, tin cans, one of those glass balls from Japan, that sort of thing. Might be fun to play with. I don’t know. All right. Survivors ready? Go!”
The two tribes run down into the sand and lay on top of the squares. Soon, each tribe has a group of five lines representing their respective pirate fleets. “All right,” Jeff says. “Jon, you’re first. Call out a grid location.”
“A-1,” Jon says.
Jeff peeks on the other side of the black wall. “Miss!” he yells. “Splash!” As he speaks, he empties the bucket of water on Jon.
“Hey!” Jon yells.
“What?” Jeff asks in a challenging, dare-me-to-punch-you? voice. “You missed! OK, Andrew, you’re next.”
“Um, C-5,” Andrew suggests.
Jeff evaluates the coordinates, then rubs his hands together joyfully. “Direct hit!” he cries. Running over to Jon, who happens to be laying along the line connecting C-3 to C-5, he drops the 10-pound weight on Jon’s stomach. “Boom!” he exclaims.
Jon groans and coughs simultaneously, which is quite a feat.
“Rupert, you’re next.”
Jeff runs down to the beach and refills the water bucket. “Miss!” he cries as he dashes back to the playing field. He douses Rupert with the bucket as the giant Battleship board lights up to reflect the two misses chosen by the Drakes so far.
The game continues in this manner for some time. Jon is the first boat “sunk,” and he takes three shots from the 10-pound weight for his troubles. Finally, Drake locates a Morgan boat. It’s Tijuana. Jeff runs over to her spot on the grid and holds the 10-pound weight over her stomach. Then he stops. “I can’t do it. It’s just too cruel.” He pauses for a few moments, then turns to yell over his shoulder. “Jon! Lay down! You’re the designated grunter for the rest of the game.”
“But - ” Jon protests.
“Do it! Or I send you back to the Isle. Are you reading me, Buster?”
Jon grouses and swears, but he lays down and awaits the 10-pound weight. “Boom!” Jeff yells delightedly as he drops the weight on Jon’s stomach.
In the end, it comes down to Osten and Christa. Both have sustained hits. In fact, each one can only withstand one more hit before being sunk. Unfortunately for Drake, it’s Morgan’s turn. All Osten has to do is call C-10 to finish Christa off. “C-5,” he says.
“What?!?” Andrew erupts. “I already called C-5.”
“Miss!” Jeff crows.
“No, wait!” Andrew protests. “That doesn’t count. I already called it. He gets to pick again.”
“Oh, so you’re suddenly the rules man, are you, Sssssavage?!” He tosses the bucket of water in Andrew’s face and yells, “Splash!”
Andrew wipes the water out of his face with his forearm. “It was already lit up on the board. He should have been able to choose again. Besides that, I think he was kidding.”
“Christa, you’re next!” Jeff cries, turning so that Andrew is now talking to his back.
“D-7,” she says.
“Direct hit!” Jeff cries, leaping directly onto Jon’s stomach.
“Whuuuhhh-HOOOOOF!” Jon gasps.
“Drake wins Reward!” Jeff calls, his hands raised in the air.
“Can I lodge a protest?” Andrew asks.
Jeff slowly lowers his arms. “Oh. Yeah, actually, you can.” He pulls a sheet of paper and a pen from his shirt pocket. “Just write down what happened and why you think it was improper. You might also want to include a proposal for how to remedy the situation.”
Andrew sits down and begins scribbling a lengthy explanation on the paper. His tongue creeps out of the corner of his mouth as he finishes the write-up. Signing his name with a flourish, he stands and hands the sheet to Jeff, who nods and accepts the offering. He reads the protest silently for several seconds, nodding and mumbling under his breath as he goes. Finally, he finishes reading the document and looks at Andrew. “Denied!” he cries, crumpling the paper into a wad and tossing it into the ocean. “But thanks for playing. Drake will send a rep over to loot you later in the day. Bye!”
As promised, Shawn shows up at Morgan camp that afternoon. Nobody greets him when he gets off the boat, but he catches a glimpse of a head flashing back into the shelter. “Here he comes!” someone hisses.
Andrew clears his throat and then begins speaking in a loud, stilted voice. “We should consider hiding our spoon before he shows up. We don’t want him stealing our most valuable merchandise.”
Osten goes next, his voice strained and loud. “Good idea, Andrew. I hate to think what might happen to us without our spoon.”
“Besides!” Tijuana yells. “It was theirs to begin with. I’m sure they’d want it back if they saw it.”
“Hello?” Shawn calls as he arrives outside the shelter.
Andrew wheels as if surprised. He’s holding a spoon out in front of him, his arm rigid. “Oh, no!” he states. “You have not given us time to hide our spoon. Oh, well. Too bad for us. You may take it. We have learned a hard lesson today.” He leans toward Shawn, causing the spoon to touch his shoulder. “Good-bye, fair spoon,” Andrew mock-sobs, wiping his eyes with the thumb of his other hand.
“Ummmm, actually, I was looking for that fishing spear Rupert taught you how to use.”
Ryan’s eyebrows shoot up. “What?”
“Yeah, I’ll just be needing that spear and I’ll be going.”
“It’s, um, lost,” Osten says, casting a quick glance directly at the location of the hidden spear.
“Oh, I see it,” Shawn says. He pries it out of the shelter wall, where it was partially concealed by palm fronds. “Thanks, guys. Don’t worry. We’ll be merged in a few days. You can use it again then. For now, we don’t think you really need all that protein. Seeya!”
The Morgans watch Shawn depart, their faces slack with disappointment and shock. Finally, Andrew speaks. “Well, good. We actually need the spoon, anyway. It makes us stronger. Right, guys? Right? Guys?”
The tribes gather again the next day at Snapchallenge Sharking Duck Beachbay. “Bring it in, folks,” Jeff calls, waving his arms in a friendly, accommodating gesture. He appears to be in a terrific mood. “First thing’s first,” he says, snatching the Immunity Skull out of Andrew’s hand. He extends the axe over his head with both hands, then brings it down in a violent swoop. The skull pops off as the axe blade sinks deeply into the sand. Releasing the axe handle, Jeff snatches the skull out of the air at its peak. He holds it over his head for a second. “See? It’s a hat. Heh, heh.” Then he clears his throat and slides an eye socket over the axe handle to hold it in place. “Immunity. Back up for grabs.” He pauses for a moment or two, as if expecting spontaneous applause to break out. When it doesn’t, he resumes speaking. “The pirates of old found out soon enough that they couldn’t trust their peers. If they trusted someone too much, they usually wound up dead. Better to kill someone you don’t trust than to be killed by someone you do. Words to live by.” He nods solemnly.
“At any rate, the pirates became rather adept at identifying those people that were especially high-risk types of individuals. As we approach the merge in the next few days, it will be very important for each of you to also have an idea of who’s real and who’s fake. That’s what today’s Immunity Challenge is all about. While we had you knocked out the other night, our crack team of Survivor scientists gathered some genetic material from each of you. Over the past 48 hours, they’ve used this DNA and our patented acceleration process to construct some ridiculously authentic clones of everyone. In a moment, I’m going to send Drake into that little house over there.” He points at a previously unnoticed shack nestled in the trees. “Waiting in the house are five fake Survivor simulacrums. The five of you represented by clones will hide in the back room of the house while the five fakes and the anti-fake,” Jeff grins into the camera, “await the arrival of the Morgan tribe in the front room. The Morgans will then receive five minutes to examine and interview the Drakes. After that, we’ll switch. Four fake Morgans and one anti-fake will be evaluated by the Drakes. With me so far?” Everyone nods.
“OK, the last step is for each tribe to select the one member of the other tribe that they think was the anti-fake. It’s winner take all. Whoever gets it right wins Immunity!”
“Uh, Jeff,” Andrew asks.
“Oh, oh! Wait, everyone, wait!” Jeff waves his hands around and holds a finger to his lips in a “Please be quiet” gesture. “Rulesman has something to say. By all means, let us hear how this Challenge is flawed.”
Andrew scowls and clenches his teeth. “Well...what happens if neither tribe picks correctly? Or both do?”
The color drains from Jeff’s face. “Um, let’s cross that bridge if we come to it, OK, Rulesman? Believe me, we’ve got it covered. I think it has something to do with the clones battling to the death or something like that. Just...be patient. All righty then. Survivors ready? Go!”
Drake walks off to the shack, disappearing through a door in the back of the house. After about ten minutes, the front door opens from within. “That’s the signal,” Jeff says. “Let’s move out.”
The Morgans and Jeff enter the shack. The Drakes are assembled about the room like mannequins. Each is trying to remain motionless and expressionless, except for Jon, who is seated on a bean bag and giggling uncontrollably. His fingers are arranged in the searingly clever “backwards F-and-Y” Jonny Fairplay configuration. If not for Jon’s incessant motion, the Drakes could pass for a pre-game Family Feud faux family portrait.
“Five minutes,” Jeff says, pressing a button on his watch. Immediately, all of the Morgans begin talking at once. Questions explode around the room like popcorn in an open pan. There’s no consistent strategy for quizzing the individual members of Drake. In fact, it’s unclear to whom any of the questions are addressed, with the exception of the rapid-fire ones being posed by Tijuana and Osten, who are double-teaming Rupert.
Almost immediately, the five minutes lapse, and the Morgans seem to have gleaned no information to help them make their decision. They leave the house via the front door and wait for the Drakes to emerge. As soon as all the Drakes have gathered, Morgan enters through the back door. Finally, the front door opens again, and the Drakes enter the shack with Jeff.
By contrast to the Drakes, the Morgans are in constant motion. They change positions so frequently it appears they’re playing musical chairs, only there’s no music. Rupert cups his hands around his mouth and yells, “QUIET!” The Morgans jerk to a halt and stare at the big man in genuine surprise. “OK,” he tells his tribe. “Let’s do it.”
“There’s the quiet one,” Trish says, pointing at Darrah. “I saw her right away so she must be a fake.”
“Hey, Osten, catch!” Christa yells, tossing him a ball. Osten hauls the ball out of the sky effortlessly. “He caught it. This one’s a fake.”
Sandra taps Andrew on the shoulder. “So, Andrew, how’s the morale in camp these days?”
Andrew shrugs. “Fine,” he says.
“One word answer,” Sandra says. “He’s a fake.”
“Tijuana,” Rupert rumbles. “Wanna go out with him?” He points at Jon, who grins at her while leaning sideways and displaying “Fairplay” with his fingers. Tijuana hesitates for a second before answering no. “Paused to consider,” Rupert says. “She’s a fake.”
“OK, Jeff, we’re ready,” Sandra says.
“But...you still have four and a half minutes.”
“We’re fine,” she says. “Rhino is the anti-fake.”
Jeff blinks in agitation. “Um, OK, well, let’s reconvene on the mats and finish this off.”
Within minutes, everyone’s assembled out on the beach. “All right, everyone. Drake picked Rhino as their choice for the anti-fake. What does Morgan think, Sssssssavage?”
“Osten talked us into it. We’re going with Rupert,” he says. “Like Osten says, no clone that size could function properly.”
“All right,” Jeff says. “Let’s reveal the actual fakes. First for the Drakes. The one player that doesn’t emerge from the house was the anti-fake. Come on out, Drakes!” Sandra emerges from the house, and she is, in fact a perfect replica. Christa and Shawn follow, then Trish, each in perfect detail. Finally, after a lengthy dramatic pause, Rupert steps out of the house. “Jon was the anti-fake on Drake!” Jeff says. “Turns out we couldn’t get the clone to act as stupidly as we wanted. Man, I thought that was a throw-away. I’m surprised you missed it.”
Andrew shrugs. “We didn’t think anyone would act that dumb for real. Now we know.”
“OK,” Jeff says. “Let’s see the fake Morgans.” First out of the house is Tijuana, then Andrew. Osten follows. Then there’s a long wait. Jeff checks his watch. “What’s going on?” he mumbles. “Oh, wait. There she is. She’s been standing here all this time.” He points at the silent Darrah clone. Then he scratches his head in confusion. “So where’s the real Darrah?” Everybody looks around. A few people call her name.
“Oh! She’s standing right next to me,” Ryan says, jerking a thumb at the quiet, scowling figure beside him. “That was kinda weird.”
“Well, now that everyone’s accounted for,” Jeff says. “Immunity to Drake!” As the Drakes jump together in excitement, Jeff turns to the Morgans. “See you at Tribal Council tomorrow night. I’m sure you remember how to get there.”
The following evening, the tribe votes 3-2 to eliminate Darrah. When Jeff asks for her torch, everyone turns and discovers she’s not there. Wheeling back to look at Jeff, they all spot her torch, already extinguished, right where it’s supposed to be. Jeff looks stunned and unsettled. “But I...I didn’t see her go,” he stammers. “I didn’t get to say the tribe has spoken. I didn’t get to tell her it was time for her to go. Nothing. I’d say she’ll be missed, but she already was.”
“Jeff, look!” Andrew says. “There’s a note hanging from her torch. What does it say?”
Jeff grabs the note and reads it, then holds it up for the others to read. It says, “Had fun. Bah.”
And the visions are gone. Just in time, too. I’m on stage in five minutes. You’re welcome to stay, if you’d like. Otherwise, I’ll see you next week. Think we’ll be in Kentucky at that time. Bye!
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