Hello, there! How very amusing of you to try to sneak up on me this week. By now, I thought you would realize that I knew of your attempted surprise attack fully a week before I even knew who you were. In fact, it is only my foreknowledge of your intentions that prevented me from dealing serious damage to you in response. My friend, you should really be more careful next time. But please be seated. I’ll ask you to don the polka dot turban this week. The visions deep within my cracked crystal ball are becoming increasingly difficult to interpret. I will need your full concentration in order to assist me in reading the signs. Yes, that’s perfect. I’m starting to see a word take shape. A single word. I believe it is the title of this week’s episode of Survivor:Thailand. Let’s learn together what is in store for the episode entitled:
Day 19. It’s the morning after Tribal Council at Sook Jai Camp. A few of the Survivors are sitting quietly around the campfire, watching yet another chicken boiling away in the pot. Shii Ann is sniffing the entrails pile interestedly. She takes a few evaluative licks with her tongue and appears to be on the verge of commencing a full-scale attack on the chicken guts when Erin asks, “Where’s Ken?”
Shii Ann’s head jerks around in surprise. The collection of chicken innards slips from her hands and wetly thwaps to the ground. It is the first time Erin has actually said anything to one of her female tribemates. Shii Ann blinks confusedly at Erin for several seconds before giving an answer. “Uh, Ken. Right. Where is he, you said? Gosh, you have a lovely voice. Um, let’s see. Last I heard, he was taking a shift as Banana Sheriff.”
“Thanks!” Erin chirps before heading off to the shelter. Shii Ann watches Erin’s body disappear out of sight, then shakes her head in amazement as she leans over to pick the fallen viscera out of the dirt.
Erin finds Ken standing in front the banana barrel. The tribal machete is clenched firmly in his right hand, and his arms are folded across his chest in a pose of extreme machismo. When Erin taps him on the shoulder, he whirls on her and draws the machete back and over his head like an executioner. He recognizes her just in time and drops the sword to the ground while breathing a noisy sigh of relief. “Jeez, Erin!” he finally says. “You got some setta bawls.” Erin’s eyes widen in horrified surprise, and one of her maybe-just-a-little-too-big hands shoots up to cover her mouth. “I coulda killed you with all your sneakin’ around. What do you want, anyway? You know you can’t have a banana so don’t even ask.”
Erin unconsciously taps her groin with her other hand. “I just wanted to see if you wanted to come join us for breakfast so we can talk about the merge.”
Ken rubs his face with his hands. “I don’t know. I’m still trying to get over the fact that we booted our spiritual leader last night. That Robb. Maybe he talked way too much, maybe he never said anything that made any sense, maybe he said ‘Dude’ and ‘Bro’ at the wrong times. All right, maybe he was an idiot who brought a skateboard to a beach party. But, darn it, when everybody was drunk the other night, somehow it all just made sense. Whatever he said about getting wasted and making lots of money. I don’t know. It just seemed to click with me that night. I still need time to think about the fact that he’s gone and that we were the ones who got rid of him.” He drops his chin to his chest, as if in deep thought. After a second or two, he looks up. “All righty. Let’s go eat.”
Meanwhile, at Chuay Gahn Camp, folks are slowly waking up and making their way down to the water for the morning’s ocean-tainting session. Clay, Ted, Brian, and Helen are bobbing in the ocean, whistling and trying to avoid making eye contact with one another, when an odd sound drifts out of the jungle. It sounds like a frantic howler monkey being sucked into an industrial-strength vacuum cleaner.
“Jan must be in trouble!” Brian exclaims in alarm. He races out of the water, adjusting his black mini-shorts while on the run. The others are right behind him. They find Jan at the jungle’s edge, performing a distant cousin of the Funky Chicken and singing some unintelligible ditty. In front of her, several little stick crosses are jammed into mounds of freshly-turned earth.
“What’s going on here, Jan?” Helen asks. In these pre-breakfast hours, her teeth seem to writhe around in excitement like snakes on the head of a Medusa.
Jan completes the final complicated steps of her dance before turning back to the group. Tears are flowing continuously from her eyes. They sluice down the deep wrinkles on her cheeks, criss-crossing one another in complicated patterns that look like they’ve been copied directly out of an irrigation textbook. “Ah keep findin’ day-ed animals on the ground,” she said. “They need to be buried.”
Clay jams his hands in his pockets to stop himself from throttling Jan. “What about the dancing and singing?” he asks.
“Ah jus’ wanna help those little critters on their way to Little Helpless Day-ed Animal Heaven, that’s all.”
The rest of the group exchanges glances of mingled concern and confusion. Finally, Ted speaks, “What did you put in the graves?”
“Way-ell, Ah found a bird, a coupla fee-ish, a horny toad, a cobra, and quite a few of those day-ed squids, which I split up into two or three mass graves ‘cause there were so many of ‘em.”
Instantly, the rest of the group dives into the animal graveyard and starts digging with their hands, amidst angry cries of “Fish?!” and “Squid?!” and “Horny toad?!” Horrified, Jan covers her face and runs away from the group. The others rapidly empty the various graves of their contents and race back to the campfire to start cooking a hearty pot of Bird/Fish/Toad/Cobra/Squid Soup.
Some hours later, a relatively calmed-down Jan (still crying, as usual, but at a noticeably slower clip) returns, clutching tree mail. “Hey, folks!” she calls. “It’s time for the merge!”
The others take a break from their boiled carrion feast to hear the clue:
You know you have the urge
To make it to the merge.
Well, you’re right on the verge
Of a population surge.
So don’t sing a sad dirge
Or try to binge and purge.
Nothing else rhymes with “merge.”
The two tribes meet at Challenge Beach to discuss the terms of the merge with Jeff. He’s dressed in a white lab coat with safari shirt pockets. Something big is set up behind him, but it’s shrouded under a large sheet. “Come on in, everyone. Sit down and get comfortable. Today, we’re going to do something very different for the traditional merge.” He turns and whisks away the sheet, revealing two wooden tables as long and wide as twin beds. Each has a metal helmet at the top, connected by wires to a computer with a confusing-looking array of jagged status lines and flashing buttons. One wooden table is empty; the other has one of the 250-pound dummies laying on it with the metal helmet affixed to its head.
“Chuay Gal?” Brian asks hopefully, his face lighting up with the remembrances of pleasant evenings past.
“Not quite,” Jeff says with an evil grin. “This contraption is the Merge Machine. Rather than merge all of you into a single tribe, we will be merging all of you into a single individual, namely this giant dummy. Here’s how it’s going to work. Each of you will come up to the table and put the helmet on your head. The Merge Machine will consume one aspect of either your personality or appearance and give it to the dummy. When we’re done, the dummy will contain a little bit of all of you. At that point, you’re free to go home. We’ll just watch the dummy vote parts of itself out of the tribe for the rest of the time. Everybody understand?”
The nervous Survivors nod stupidly, apparently not understanding that Jeff just told them the game is nearly over for each of them. Erin climbs onto the table first and waits in terrified silence as Jeff activates the Merge Machine. Immediately, the chest of the dummy expands to dimensions that look ridiculous even for a 250-pound behemoth. Clay’s next. The dummy shrivels down to a mere 5’3” tall, but the entire body remains proportional (with the exception of its chest, which was out of control to begin with). Jan goes after Clay, and the dummy suddenly becomes saggy and wrinkled. Shii Ann’s turn results in a face appearing on the dummy. It’s a pinched face whose expression is at once severely irritated and supremely arrogant. Next on the table is Helen. The dummy sprouts fearsome jagged teeth that point in random directions. After Ken’s turn on the table, the dummy grows curly hair and sideburns. Then, when Penny goes, the hair scoots further up on the head, creating an exaggerated cliff-wall forehead. Jake gives the dummy a white goatee. Ted’s time on the table causes the dummy to take on a darker hue while also bulking up through the arms. But for Brian, nothing appears to happen at all.
“Don’t worry,” Jeff says, as he executes the final command to bring the dummy to life. “That just means some element of your personality has been consumed.” The dummy shakes its head to clear the cobwebs and swings its legs over the edge of the table. “Behold!” Jeff cries. “The Merge Monster!”
Upon seeing all the women, the Monster slicks its hair back and struts over to Erin. “Hey, baby,” it said. “How’d you like me to take you away from all this? I could show you how I won the part of the cobra in Riki Tiki Three-way.”
“That’s enough, Merge Monster!” Jeff calls out. “Come over here with me, please.”
The Merge Monster carefully looks Jeff over, then its tongue creeps out of its mouth. “Gladly,” it breathed. “I like anything that moves!” The Monster darts over towards Jeff. He drops everything and runs screaming into the jungle, the Merge Monster in hot pursuit.
Suddenly, a window opens on the computer monitor, and a furious Mark Burnett looks out at the group from within. “Fine!” he growls. “You win again! You may all stay in the game, and we’ll have a real merge. You are now officially known as the Lucky Bastards tribe. You may pick one campsite and move all your stuff there. You have until nightfall. Burnett out!” The window closes.
The group decides to live on Chuay Gahn Beach. The former Sook Jais return to their camp and gather all their supplies, then paddle back to their new home in their boat. As the sun sets, the Lucky Bastards tribe is born.
Next day is the Immunity Challenge. The new tribe sits at a long, low table with a covered trough running down the middle of the table for its entire length. A limping and bruised Jeff arrives and stands before the assembled members of the Lucky Bastards. “Before we begin, a word of warning. We were unable to contain the Merge Monster yesterday. It’s still out there.” His voice trails off, and his eyes scan the horizon nervously. “Somewhere.” Jeff falls silent, but his lips work in a private conversation with himself.
“Uh, Jeff?” Ken prompts him. “The Challenge?”
Jeff snaps out of it and barks at Ken, “I know that! One more outburst like that, and I’m voting you out of the tribe! Understood?” No response from Ken. “Good. Now today’s Immunity Challenge salutes Thailand’s pioneering efforts in the breakfast cereal industry. I know you’ve all been expecting the ‘Gross Food Challenge’ at any time. Well, today is not it. Today is the ‘Most Food Challenge.’ Each of you will have a limitless supply of Thailand’s chief breakfast-related export, Cap’n Crunch cereal. In a test of wills, the one of you who is still eating after all the others have dropped out will win the Immunity Medallion, which is, of course, gold and really fancy-looking. Now remember. Cap’n Crunch will tear the roof of your mouth to pieces, and it has no nutritive value. It’ll shoot through your body like a fecal torpedo. The winner of this Challenge will doubtless suffer, but they will get to stay here for at least three more gastrointestinally-challenged days. Everybody understand? All right. Survivors ready? Go!”
In a ghastly, disturbing scene of mass cereal consumption, the Survivors tuck into their Cap’n Crunch with gusto. Shii Ann, still relatively full from eating the chicken’s insides the day before, is out almost immediately. Penny and Erin drop out next, then Clay, who runs to the shelter of trees and heaves loudly. This causes Jan and Brian to surrender. Jake is next to go, rubbing his stomach and mumbling something about cows and their cud. And it’s down to Helen, Ken, and Ted. After thirty solid minutes of eating, Ken finally slumps face-first on the table and loses consciousness. Partially-eaten Crunch bits spill out of his mouth, signaling his defeat. Helen then concedes victory to Big Ted by stepping away from the table. Cap’n Crunch morsels spray out of Ted’s mouth as he roars in excitement at having secured Immunity.
In Tribal Council, the former Sook Jai and Chuay Gahn tribes are deadlocked 5-all between Ken and Brian. Because no amount of dickering will inspire them to change their minds, Jeff hauls out the bag o’ rocks to settle the dispute. And the flying fickle purple rock of fate lands in Jan’s hands. The four remaining members of the former Chuay Gahn rise as one and applaud Jan as she leaves. They know better than anyone how insane she has become.
And now the images are gone. I am now powerless to see the future. You must return next week to see what will happen to the Lucky Bastards in Week 8. Farewell, friend!