Hello, my friend! Please come in and have a seat. I apologize for the untidy appearance of the Desk of Destiny. I’m filling out my paperwork for the annual “Seer of the Year” contest. Oh, you’re absolutely right! This is a really big deal. It’s the Super Bowl of forecasting. If you win, you can walk away with major endorsement deals, not to mention the fact you can raise your consulting rates with impunity. People love to shell out more bucks to be assisted by the Seer of the Year. How does it work? Well, you write down your most stunning predictions of the previous year, as well as all your run-of-the-mill slam dunks. And of course, they require all the supporting forms and affidavits, in triplicate, so you can’t get away with little white lies. Why do they care about the minor victories, you ask? Good question. It’s important to prove you can knock out the easy ones because it validates your whoppers. Otherwise, it just looks like luck, something any shuffling, sniffling slob off the street could do with a dartboard and a blindfold. I think the competition is going to be very stiff this year. When big favorites like the Patriots and Return of the King win, it keeps a bunch of the usual also-rans in the competition longer than they ought to be. Hopefully, the “character” questions on the application will help to separate the charlatans from the elite. Do I already know who won? Ah, now you’re thinking fourth-dimensionally! Well, the contest organizers know who they’re dealing with, so they take special precautions to ensure that none of us know who wins. They award several mock titles to people who will ultimately lose the competition. You have to understand how this whole prescience thing works to fully comprehend the beauty of that strategy. When you’re peering into the misty veil of the future, you may only get a flash of a congratulatory handshake or a glimpse of someone jumping up and down in celebration. If it’s a fake, you really can’t tell solely from that fragment. It’s a great system they’ve instituted. I do know that I’m at least a mock winner this time around. I can only hope that my distinguished efforts this past year will raise me to the lofty status of Seer of the Year. Only time will tell. But I can finish this paperwork later. You’re here to learn what will take place on this week’s episode of Survivor:All-Stars. Let’s peer into the cracked crystal ball together and see what marvels it has to offer. Yes, I can already perceive a four-word title taking shape inside. It’s
Atari Guy Clue Kit
It’s a warm, muggy day in the Pearl Islands. The six remaining members of the Chapera tribe are lounging around the tree swing, silently munching on the day’s bountiful feast of fish. “Awwwwrrr!” Tom groans, laying a hand across his stomach. “Ah don’t thank Big Tawm c’n ait anymower a this fiush. Ah’m lahk a cloaged tollet ready a barst.”
“Oh, my god!” Amber raves. “It’s so good!” She dives lustily into a slab of shark and shakes her head side-to-side as she rips off a hunk of meat. As she looks up, the camera kicks it into slow-motion. A puff of wind teases her hair into a cloud about her head, and she extends her tongue to lap up some shark juice trickling out the corner of her mouth as she stares hungrily at the man across from her.
Boston Rob, seated beside her, notices this smoldering glance and acts quickly to defuse the situation. “Hay, Ambah. Wanna go collect some wood?” he asks, italicizing the final phrase with his inflection and body language.
“No thanks, Rob,” Amber breathes. “Rupert said he’d take me out and spear some fish.” She grins at Rupert, who sends a toothy smile and a wink back her way.
“Oh, really?” Rob asks petulantly. “Actually, I thought Rooput might want to go fishin’ with me so he could kiss my - ”
“Hey, what’s that?” Alicia interrupts him. She points to what appears to be a kite flying in the air near their camp. The string extends down and away from the kite, disappearing in a nearby grove of trees.
Amber leaps to her feet. “Oh, my god!” she exclaims. “What is it?” She turns to look at Rupert. “Want to go check it out?” she asks huskily.
“Sure!” he replies genially. “Let’s go.”
Rob leans forward in his swing. “Uh, could I--? But, um... Hm.” He sits back and folds his arms in disgust as the two disappear into the trees. “Fuhst time for ev’rything,” he mutters aloud. “I’ve been dumped befoah, but nevah fer a hippy pirate.”
He watches with Alicia, Tom, and Jenna as the kite is slowly reeled in. Moments later, Rupert and Amber return with the kite in hand. “It’s an invitation,” Rupert says. “We need to head off to the Reward Challenge right now!”
The group piles into the tribal canoe and paddles off to the most remote of the Pearl Islands, the desolate and barren Nope No Snapping Duck-Sharks Here Bay Beach. Jeff is sitting cross-legged on a boulder, a glass of water on the sand below him. He has a notebook open on his lap and is thoughtfully scrawling inside it with a stubby yellow pencil covered in bite marks. When the tribes are settled on their mats, Jeff finishes off a sentence, then looks up. “Good morning!” he calls heartily. “I’m working on some tongue twisters. Just a little something to fall back on if this whole Survivor gig falls through. I bet there’s good royalty money to be had if you invent a really spectacular tongue twister. I imagine there’s some compilation of the best ones out there somewhere. How great would that be to see your name printed next to a classic like Peter Piper or the one about the seashells?!” His face flushes in excitement as he contemplates such a scenario. “Here, listen to this one,” he says. “Tell me what you think.” He clears his throat and holds the notebook at arm’s length in front of himself. “’I found a pound of ground round at the brown clown playground.’” He lowers the notebook and gazes eagerly at the group, his mouth slightly ajar to facilitate a faster grin of appreciation should praise be forthcoming. When the Survivors are silent, Jeff’s mouth closes and twists downward into a frown. “Well, at least try it first. Say it three times fast. That’s what you do with a tongue twister, for heaven’s sake!” For a few seconds, the quiet beach sounds like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as the twelve Survivors follow Jeff’s instructions. Then silence.
Jeff sighs and climbs off the boulder. He leans down to place the notebook on the ground and grab the glass of water. “All right. Well, maybe that one needs work. Let’s, um, let’s talk about the Reward Challenge. Today, we have another all-time classic in store for you!”
Boston Rob raises his hand. “Jeff?” he asks.
Jeff looks at Rob, his brow furrowed in consternation. “It is highly irregular to interrupt me in the course of my explanation of the big Challenge!” he says. “This had better be good.” He takes a large swig of the water.
“I wanna quit,” Rob says.
Ffffppptthhhttt!! Jeff sprays water out of his mouth at the group. “What?!” he splutters, dropping his half-full glass to the ground. “But, but...you’re doing so well! You, you, you have the alliances going on! You’re intimidating everyone. I mean, geez, Rob! You’re workin’ it! Why on earth would you want to quit?”
“I’m hahtbroken, Jeff. My true love dumped me. I can’t go on. Without huh, it’s not wuhth it.” He glances at Amber, who does not return his look. She shuffles closer to Rupert. “See?” Rob asks. “How am I s’poseta focus on Suhvivah? I’m done. Bring me one a them boats.”
Jeff squints and peers at Rob closely. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“As a haht attack,” Rob replies.
Jeff claps a hand to his forehead and slides it up to the top of his head, where he scrubs his hair vigorously. “Rrrrrrrrrr!” he growls. “Why is everyone quitting?! This is terrible.” He drops his hand to his side and looks up at the group. His hair is pointing wildly in different directions. “Fine,” he mutters. “Need a boat!” he yells, his voice rising at the end of the command.
Immediately, a small speedboat appears at the water’s edge. Rob waves his hat at everyone and climbs in. Moments later, he and the boat are out of sight.
“Well,” Jeff says. “You can forget about sharing the Reward and talking things out. This is Survivor, people. ‘All-Star’ Survivor, no less! We will proceed with the Challenge as planned, with Chapera down a member.”
“Mike thayat too,” Tom says. “Big Tawm is out. Ah queeyut.”
Jeff’s eyes narrow to angry slits. “You quit, huh? Just like that. You quit. What possible excuse could you have for bailing? Let’s hear it. This should be richly humorous, assuming I can understand it. Can’t wait to hear this one. Go ahead, Big Tom. Tell me why you’re quitting.”
“Rayan outta WIS-kee,” Tom says. “Ah’m pahrched.”
Jeff purses his lips and raises an eyebrow. “You require more liquor in order to continue,” he says in disbelief. “What if we assemble a wet bar inside your shelter? Then would you stay?”
“No fair!” Lex cries.
“Nope,” Tom says, shaking his head. “Ah’ve awlreddy checked ayout. Ah’m done.”
Jeff rolls his eyes skyward. “Whatever!” he exclaims. “Need a chopper!”
A dark helicopter appears on the horizon and quickly makes its way to the island, where it lands in a clearing behind the two tribes. Two husky men leap out and run in the direction of the assembled Survivors. “That one,” Jeff says, pointing at Tom. The husky men dart over to Tom and quickly bind him shoulder to shin in duct tape.
“Wutda hail?!” Tom shouts in confusion as one of the men tosses him up onto the other’s shoulder.
“Goodbye, Tom,” Jeff says coldly as the bound man is hurled into the helicopter. The two husky men climb in after him, and soon the chopper is gone. Jeff turns back to the group. “All right,” he says. “On with the Reward Challenge. One of our all-time favorites we like to talk about when we get together for Survivor sleepovers during the offseason is the classic Kite Flying Challenge!”
“Oh, no,” Kathy groans.
“Yes, it was a tricky one, wasn't it, Kathy? I see you remember it. I do, too. I remember it well. You were the big winner that day. Your excitement may be all that you remember, but I also recall the drama, the pageantry, of that Challenge. I remember all of you racing along the beach like gazelles, your different-colored kites bumping along on the ground behind you. And then, finally, the majesty of Kathy’s kite soaring a full ten feet off the ground. My god, it was breathtaking.” He smiles and nods, his eyes taking on the distant look of a man enveloped in happy memories. “Anyway, here’s how it’s going to work. Each tribe will have a giant kite. And, uh, you’ll have to fly it. So, yeah, that’s pretty much it. Get that big ol’ kite in the sky and win a prize! First team to get their kite above the top of that highest tree over there wins. Let’s see. Mogo Mogo, you have two extra people, so you’re going to need to sit out Shii Ann and one other person. Who’s it going to be?”
Shii Ann raises her hand. “Actually, Jeff, I think I’ll just quit.”
“WwwwwwWHAT?!?” Jeff screams, his eyes widening outrageously. “Ohhhhhh, no. Uh-uh. You are NOT quitting. In fact, just for that sassy backtalk, you have to take part in this Challenge! How do you like that?”
Shii Ann shakes her head. “I’m afraid not. I’m very disappointed in the Challenges so far. They’re all so physical. It’s like the deck is stacked against a ferocious genius like myself. Where are the logic puzzles? The chess brainteasers? The Rubik’s cube contests? OK, that last one’s right on the border of being too physical, but you get my point. Those Challenges just don’t exist, and I’m barely hanging on as a result.”
“Well, they’re....they’re coming soon!” Jeff says. “Next one, in fact. You won’t want to miss it.”
“I’m sorry, Jeff. There’s nothing you can do now to fix this problem. You should’ve considered the needs of the hyper-intelligent before this whole thing got started. I will now leave.”
Jeff takes a deep breath through his nose and flutters his eyelids in rage and frustration. “Very well,” he snaps. “Need a sidecar!”
A helmeted rider drives a motorcycle out of the trees and pulls to a stop beside Jeff, who nods wordlessly at Shii Ann. The driver escorts her to the attached sidecar, then hops on the bike and drives off.
Jeff rubs his temples, his eyes squeezed shut. “OK, we’re down to nine. I, uh...heck, I guess we’re merged now. Well, after the Challenge, I mean.” He lowers his hands and looks at the Survivors beseechingly. “For the love of humanity, we’ve got the doggone Kite Challenge ready to go! Where’s the enthusiasm?! Why am I having to deal with all these quitters?!” He sighs deeply. “All right, let’s just get it over with. Stand next to your kite and wait for my go.”
“Um, Jeff? Just very quickly,” Lex says earnestly.
“What, Lex? What? Are you quitting, too?”
“I just want to know what we’re playing for.”
Jeff looks at Lex wearily, a sad smile on his face. “Oh. Of course. Just this.” He holds up a can of beans.
“Quitting!” Jerri says.
“Need a slingshot!” Jeff yells.
Two muscular men race out of the trees and grab Jerri, one by each arm. They hustle her back to the tree line, where a giant elastic band is tied to a pair of palm trees. They settle her in the middle of the enormous rubber band and pull her back as far as they can. The rubber band quivers and thrums as the two men strain to hold her in place. They watch Jeff silently, expectantly.
“Fire,” Jeff says quietly.
Thhhwwaannnnggnnngg!! Jerri blasts off the island so rapidly she’s over the water before the other Survivors can swivel their heads to track her flight. She travels to the horizon, dwindling in size until she’s just a dot, and then she disappears from their sight.
“She’ll be fine,” Jeff says with a dismissive wave of his hand. “We have boats everywhere.” He sighs again. “You know what? You guys can forget about this Challenge. It was going to be a lot of fun, but you don’t deserve it. And I’m tired. So tired. I think what I’m going to do is just go sit in my tent and eat this entire can of beans by myself. And I’m just going to think about what you freaks have done here today. I suggest you do the same.” He leans down to grab his notebook and water glass. Then he turns to leave but stops. “Oh, yeah. You’re one tribe now, I guess. You’ll need to pick a beach and pick a name. Of course, we don’t have all the merge buffs ready to go yet. Kinda thought we had a few days to work with on that one. Anyway, I’ll bring some for you at the Immunity Challenge tomorrow.”
“We’re having an Immunity Challenge?!” Lex asks.
Jeff glares at him. “You got that right, Mister. I’m going to get this show straightened out and back on course if it kills me. And if that doesn’t work, I’m going to kill one of you instead.” He wipes his cheek with his palm. “All right. You’re free to go.”
The remaining eight now-merged Survivors spend a few moments greeting one another, then they all pile in Chapera’s boat and head off for that beach. Jeff watches them go from atop his perch on the large boulder. Then he opens his notebook and begins writing.
The next day, the Survivors arrive at Trapper Flap Snap And Clap Shark Bark Dark Remark Beach. Jeff is staring at the sign forlornly when the tribe arrives. “Look at that,” he says, sadness tingeing his voice. “Now that’s a tongue-twister. They make it look so easy, too. ‘Let’s just throw a bunch of like-sounding words together and call it a tongue twister.’ Pretentious showoffs.” He turns to look at the Survivors and notes that Ethan and Jenna are now gone, as well. Jeff covers his eyes with one hand and shakes his head. “Tell me they’re just off exploring the local plant life and lost track of time.”
Colby shakes his head. “Nope. They both quit within about ten minutes of each other. Nobody really knows why. Maybe they were tired.”
Jeff waves his hands in the air to shut Colby up. “You know, whatever it is, I don’t care. Let’s just play the Challenge and get out of here. We’re down to about two shows left...if nobody else quits. We can all go home after that and just try to forget any of this ever happened. And you can bet your house there’ll be a new rules change that prevents people from quitting next time. You either leave the game after Tribal Council or they drag your stiff body outta here. That’s my new hard-nosed plan. No more Mr. Nice Probst!” He jabs his index finger in the air for emphasis, then points it at each Survivor one at a time. “OK, let’s play this Challenge. Now this one’s a little bit different in that it’s actually not based on a classic Survivor Challenge. It is based on some classic games, though, as you’ll see. After yesterday’s Kite Challenge disaster, we decided we didn’t want to squander some of our best stuff again. So we’re holding a little something back...for the one or two of you who will still be around to enjoy it.”
Kathy raises her hand. “I think it’s only fair to let you know I’m considering quitting, but I’m on the fence right now.”
Jeff works his lips as if chewing on bubble gum as he stares silently at Kathy for a few seconds. “If you’re done whining, I’ll go on.” He raises his eyebrows at Kathy, who nods meekly. “OK then. Today’s Challenge is a treasure hunt. Each of you will be given a set of clues which will guide you through a series of mini-Challenges. You are in pursuit of a single man, and here he is. Come on out!” he yells.
A tall, skinny man with disheveled hair and a pronounced Adam’s apple steps out of the tree cover and waves self-consciously at the group. He’s wearing a T-shirt that says, “Intellivision Sucks.” He slides his glasses up his nose, then jams his hands in his tight jeans, which are slightly too small and show off his drooping white tube socks with three blue stripes. He looks at his feet and shuffles along the sand to stand by Jeff.
“This is Atari Guy,” Jeff says, clapping a hand on the young man’s shoulder. Atari Guy gasps in pain and slumps sideways in the direction of Jeff’s hand. “He’s your quarry today. The one of you that overcomes all three of the mini-Challenges designed by Atari Guy, then finds him and brings me his glasses wins Immunity and is guaranteed to stay on the island for the next three days...assuming, of course, you don’t just leave on your own.” He glares at Kathy. “All right, now be warned that Atari Guy is very devious, and his mini-Challenges will be both draining and dangerous. You must be very crafty to survive. In this box are four clues, one to locate each mini-Challenge and the last to track down Atari Guy himself. You may only open a clue when the previous one has been solved.” He holds out a box in each hand. “Everyone come up and grab your own Atari Guy Clue Kit.” He turns and grins into the camera. Once everyone has retrieved their kit, Jeff sends Atari Guy on his way. After a few seconds, Jeff raises his hand in preparation for the start of the Challenge. “Oh, this feels good!” he exclaims. “Haven’t had my hand in the air in days! OK, Survivors ready? Go!”
The Survivors tear open their first clue and find a map. They race off into the trees in pursuit of the first mini-Challenge. In moments, Rupert steps into a wide clearing. In the center of the clearing is a row of six leather belts. Rupert looks around the clearing cautiously for a few seconds and then, seeing nothing, he ventures out to grab the belt. Turning it over, he sees a piece of tape fastened to the inside with writing on it. “Asteroid belt,” he reads aloud. “Huh?”
Suddenly, a large stone hurtles out one the distant trees. It flies directly at Rupert, who has nowhere to go to get away. Raising the belt over his head, he lashes out ferociously at the soaring boulder. To his astonishment, the boulder shatters into four component stones, which land harmlessly in the sand nearby. There’s no time to celebrate, though, as two more rocks explode out of the trees. The other Survivors are entering the clearing, as well. “Welcome to my Asteroid field!” a thin, phlegmy voice that can only be Atari Guy’s blares over hidden loudspeakers. “You must fully destroy ten asteroids before you can move on. If you are struck and killed by a rock, you’re out. Good luck!”
Everyone has their asteroid belts in their hands at this point, and the big boulders are raining down like rice at a wedding reception, only much bigger and more potentially fatal. Not surprisingly, Rupert finishes the first mini-Challenge first and rips open the envelope for the next clue. He mumbles aloud to himself as he reads the message, then heads off in search of the destination. Lex, Kathy, and Alicia aren’t far behind.
At the second station, Rupert skids to a halt at the top of a large cliff. Far below are five teeter-totters on wheels. Slightly above the cliff’s edge are three rows of colored balloons. “Welcome to Circus Atari!” the phlegmatic voice calls out from the hidden loudspeaker. “You must destroy thirty balloons to move on. And you’re going to have to step off the cliff to do that. So quit wasting time!”
Rupert takes a deep breath and jumps. He lands on the upward edge of the see-saw and propels a Survivor staff member straight up and into the bank of balloons, where he breaks several balloons and falls back to earth. Rupert uses the attached side poles to move his teeter-totter into position to catch the staffer. When the other man lands, Rupert soars up and into the bank of balloons. He spins and thrashes like a bearded, tie-dye-wearing Tasmanian Devil, trying to burst as many balloons as possible.
Meanwhile, the others have arrived and have jumped down to their own see-saws. Survivors and staff members are now shooting up and down in a steady stream. While wheeling to get themselves in position to catch their no-name teammates, Lex and Rupert crash into one another. Their teammates land solidly in two tremendous clouds of dust. Jeff, sitting on the edge of the cliff with his legs hanging over the edge, shouts in sympathetic pain. “That’ll do it for Rupert and Lex!” he yells. “And we’re probably going to need some new mail room folks, too, looks like.”
Colby and Alicia break their thirtieth balloons and tear open their third clue. They race off side by side and arrive at the final clue location. They are a little further down the beach, still below the towering cliff face. All around the beach are little clusters of colored plastic cities. The high-pitched voice crackles over the loudspeaker. “Missile Command! One of my all-time favorites. Choose a color. You’ll need to protect all six of the cities in your color. I’ll be trying to destroy them from up here.” Atari Guy steps to the edge of the cliff and waves. “Deflect or catch twenty of my missiles, and you get to move on. Here it comes!” He tosses a metal ball over the cliff edge. It drops in a straight line for a while, then a burst of smoke erupts out the back of the ball, and it locks in on one of Colby’s blue cities. It picks up tremendous speed and blasts dead-center into his city before Colby can even react.
Jeff is peering down at the action while standing next to Atari Guy. “Come on, Donaldson!” he yells. “Show some hustle! This is ‘All-Stars’!”
Atari Guy throws two more missiles as Kathy and Amber arrive. Alicia loses a red city, but Colby manages to tip away the missile directed at another of his blue cities. Atari Guy is busy reloading, though. Now he’s tossing two or three missiles at a time. The Survivors are lunging all over the place to protect their cities. Kathy loses a green city in a shower of shattered plastic. Colby gives up another city. The air is thick with smoke, making it difficult for the Survivors even to see the missiles as they sizzle down toward their cities.
Late in the round, Colby slips in the sand as he dives to guard a city. The streaking missile blasts him on the temple, and he collapses to the ground with a barely audible eep! Simultaneously, Alicia tips away her twentieth missile.
“Alicia’s all done!” Jeff calls. “Moving on to her final clue! Don’t give up, the rest of you! Well, except for Donaldson. He can give up now, if he wants to.”
Alicia tears open her final clue and runs down the beach to a small ravine. She scrambles up to the top in hopes of catching Atari Guy still throwing missiles. When she arrives, however, he’s gone. Looking quickly around the area, she spots a small brick structure several yards away from the edge of the cliff. There’s a bucket of baseballs nearby. Alicia nods in understanding. “Breakout,” she whispers. She runs over and begins firing the baseballs at the wall of the stone hut. The bricks shatter dramatically with each hit. Shortly, the Breakout House looks like a hunk of moldy Swiss cheese. Atari Guy is huddled inside, his wide eyes peering through the cracks in the house fearfully. Alicia drops the baseball in her hand and runs to the Breakout House. Reaching inside, she swipes at Atari Guy’s face, then holds her hand triumphantly over her head.
“My glasses!” Atari Guy whines.
Alicia runs to Jeff, who’s been watching the action from just a few feet away. When she hands him the glasses, he raises both hands. “Alicia wins Immunity!” he cries. He gives her the head of the original Immunity Idol. “Um, yeah, we didn’t have time to build a new Necklace yet, either. Here’s some string, though. You can probably make something nice with that, don’t you think? Maybe loop the string through the ears of that statue? Anyway, we’ll see all of you at Tribal Council tomorrow night.”
The next night at Tribal Council, a still-groggy Colby is tag-teamed by the rest of the tribe, losing 5-1. Just before his torch is extinguished, Colby holds up his hands. “Wait! Can I quit first?”
Jeff smirks as he claps the shell-snuffer over Colby’s flame. “Get outta here, Donaldson. You need a shave.”
And the visions are gone. I’ll just wrap up this application and head home. Wish me luck in the contest. I’ll let you touch the neat medal if I win.
Your comments are welcome. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.