Ah, hello, there! Good to see you! Why, yes, I am feeling a bit tired this week. How observant of you to notice. Well, my trip to the Psychics’ Convention turned out to be a bit of a fiasco. I found out when I arrived in Fargo, North Dakota, that the visions I’d had were for next year, not this year. In fact, there was a sign hanging in the lobby of the hotel where the event will take place next year announcing that fact. I assure you I wasn’t the only seer to be foiled by this little stratagem. The others, however, decided they would just spend the weekend in Fargo and then return home. I thought I might still have a shot at making it to the convention. It was, after all, early Thursday evening when I discovered my error. The convention wasn’t scheduled to begin until the next day and was due to end on Sunday. I spent that evening hunched over my cracked crystal ball, communing with the infinite. At about 3:30 in the morning, I finally caught a glimpse of a banner in Cleveland, Ohio. I determined that I could take a bus ride to Cleveland and arrive on Saturday. I could get in almost a day with my psychic friends and still have enough time to make it back to Fargo for my return plane flight on Monday. Well, when I arrived in Cleveland, there was no sign of the convention anywhere. Defeated, I returned to the bus station and made my way back to Fargo, arriving late on Sunday night. Upon re-entering the hotel, I noticed that the sign in the lobby had been corrected to say “2003” instead of “2004.” The convention had been in Fargo all along. I rousted the event organizer from his bed and gave him a piece of my mind about his foolish prank, but the frightened man assured me it had all been an honest mistake. Oh, well. There’s always next year. Besides, you’re more interested in this week’s episode of Survivor, aren’t you? Come, settle in and let’s discover together what will happen this week. My cracked crystal ball is already crackling to life. Deep within, I can see the ghostly form of this week’s title taking shape. My, what a long title! It’s
You Hide In The Sand To Ride It, See?
Late in the evening of Day 6 in the Pearl Islands, a small boat is making its way quietly to Morgan Beach. The remaining members of the Morgan tribe, weary after a second consecutive visit to Tribal Council, are in the boat, rowing mechanically. They’re nearly home. Moments before reaching the shore, Andrew speaks up quietly. “People, as your leader, I think I have my finger on the pulse of our tribe’s morale, and I have a great idea to lift our spirits.”
Osten snaps awake from a light doze. “No, man, let’s just go get some sleep. My throat’s starting to feel scratchy. I need to get some rest.” He coughs unconvincingly.
Andrew raises a hand in a placating fashion, like a faith healer about to work his magic. “I am quite certain,” he says with a charming smile, “that you will feel much better after we pursue my plan.” He looks around the boat, taking in all the drawn faces. “Ah, hello, Darrah! Glad to see you could join us. Were you actually at Tribal Council?”
She nods slowly, mysteriously, from the back of the boat. The others shudder unconsciously, as if chilled by a sudden breeze.
“Uh, anyway,” Andrew continues, his voice rising in pitch as he delivers what he considers to be one of the greatest questions of all time. “What would you all say to getting our tarp back this evening?”
Osten sniffs loudly and moans. A cameraman coughs. After a long silence, Tijuana finally speaks. “Well, I guess we could do that if you want. Maybe just you could go, though?” Many of the others murmur their approval of the new plan.
Andrew’s eyes squint in dissatisfaction. “Well, you know, I was thinking this could be more of a team activity. Kind of a ‘capture the flag’ type of thing, you know. Really boost the spirits!” He makes a fist and punches it in the air for emphasis. The others shuffle around in their seats and look determinedly anywhere but at Andrew himself. In desperation, Andrew cries out to Ryan. “Ryan O, what are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking I wish you people would stop calling me ‘Rhino’!” Ryan bursts out. “I’ve been using skin lotion for years! I mean, geez! Raise your hand if you haven’t had a problem with thick, leathery skin at any point in your life!”
The others look around awkwardly at one another. “Um, you know what?” says Tijuana. “Let’s go ahead and grab that tarp real quick.” General nodding and grunts of assent follow her suggestion.
The Morgans set course for Drake Beach. The moon is shining brightly in a clear sky, and the tribe makes good time under these ideal conditions. Before long, they’re gliding quietly into the inland harbor of Drake Island. Andrew leaps out of the bow of the boat and drags it ashore. He puts a finger to his lips and waves the others out. The Morgans silently slip over the sides of the boat and wade onto the beach. Osten sinks to a knee and holds a hand to his chest. He breathes deeply several times. “You guys go on ahead,” he whispers. “I think I’ve got fluid buildup in my lungs. I’d better just take it easy.”
Andrew nods and jerks his head in the direction of the Drake camp. The others fan out and swiftly make their way up the beach. Ryan spots the tarp first. The decadent Drakes haven’t even made time to put the thing to use yet. It’s folded neatly and sitting at the base of their shelter, within which many people can be heard snoring. Ryan creeps up and grabs the tarp. It crinkles loudly in the still night air. Andrew flinches as if slapped, but the sleeping Drakes give no indication of having heard the noise. The Morgans retreat stealthily into the night and then break into a run when they are once again within sight of their boat. They giggle excitedly under their breath as they pile back into the boat.
As Andrew prepares to shove off, a giant shape explodes out of the water behind the boat. The Morgans scream in unison as the monstrous form grabs the stern of the vessel and leans in to address the crew. “Go-win’ somewherez with ar tarp, ma hearties?” Rupert asks in a quiet pirate voice. He grins maliciously as water cascades over his unkempt hair and beard before splashing onto the deck of the small craft.
Ryan flips the purloined tarpaulin onto the beach and shakes his head wildly. “No, sir,” he stammers. “It’s just that, uh, many of us had grown quite attached to the tarp. We were...saying hello.”
Rupert’s smile widens, and he throws back his head in merriment as he laughs. “Well, ain’t that sweet? You know what? I think your buddy, the tarp, is lonely. What say you leave your oars here to keep him company?”
A few of the Morgans protest, but the frightened Ryan quickly gathers the oars and tosses them onto the beach next to the tarp.
“Very nice,” Rupert says, still beaming. “Now am I mistaken, or were you just about on your way back to camp?”
Andrew grits his teeth and pushes the boat out into the water. “Yes, you’re right. We were just leaving.” He leans over the side and paddles with his hands. The others follow his lead, and the boat slowly heads back out to sea.
Rupert watches the boat until it disappears on the horizon, then gathers the tarp and the oars and heads back to camp.
Early the next morning, the Morgans finally ease into camp. They are delirious, exhausted, and completely parched. Osten swings a leg gingerly over the side of the boat, then slips and plunges into the shallow surf, landing on his back with a splash. He holds his side and gasps audibly. “Could someone please look at my tongue?” he rasps. “It feels like it has spots or something on it. I also think I just broke a rib.”
Andrew grabs Osten’s arms and drags him out of the water and up the beach to the Morgan shelter, where the rest of the tribe has already collapsed. “I’ll check it later,” he growls. “Right now, we need sleep, or we’ll never be able to compete in the Reward Challenge later today.”
“Tree Mail!” a voice peeps from the forest.
“No,” Andrew mumbles, already fast on his way to a deep and lengthy slumber.
The voice from the forest clears its throat. “Tree Mail!” it chimes again.
Osten snores. Andrew rolls over and clamps his hands to his ears. “No,” he groans.
There is a brief pause as something rustles in the jungle then pads across the sand to the shelter. A head peers into the shelter. It’s Mark Burnett. “I...said...Tree...Mail!” he cries, punctuating each word by slapping Andrew’s bare feet with a stick. Andrew sits up and howls in pain. He sees only a flash of Burnett’s hat and shirt as he sprints back into the trees.
“Come on, guys” he gasps through his tears. “It’s time for the Reward Challenge.”
Jeff and the Drakes are waiting for the Morgan tribe when they arrive at Snapping Shark Duck Challenge Beach Bay. Jon is broadcasting a joke to the group, eagerly keeping his eyes on Jeff the whole time to gauge his reaction. “And so she says, ‘What’d you think this was? A lemonade stand?’” Jon’s jaw shoots into the fully open position, and he roars in laughter, his shoulders shrugging into the laugh as his head bobs up and down. Jeff examines his fingernails with exaggerated care and yawns widely. After Jon’s laughter fades a bit, he adds, “That was a Jonny Fairplay original, but you guys can use it whenever you want to, OK? Believe me, your friends will be glad you did.”
Jeff catches sight of the tired Morgans trudging up the beach, Osten being supported by Tijuana and Lill. “Come on in, you guys. Let’s get this over with so I can get out of here. We’re having steak tonight in the production camp. That’s not unusual, of course. Every day is ‘Thank God we’re not the Survivors’ Day around the old production area.” He chuckles good-naturedly as several of the Survivors weep silently. Jeff waits for the Morgans to stand on their mat before continuing. “OK, today’s Challenge is for Reward. Wanna know what you’re playing for?” Everybody indicates their interest in hearing the prize. “Ha!” Jeff exclaims. “Well, you’ll just have to wait. I’m going to describe the Challenge itself first. That’s how these things are done. You guys need to pay better attention.”
He turns and walks into the jungle. Presently, he returns, pushing a large wood chipper mounted on a wagon with squeaky wheels. The piercing shrieks of the wheels force many of the Survivors to wince and cover their ears. Jeff stops pushing the wagon, and everyone relaxes. Then Jeff gives the wagon another quick shove, causing more squeaks and more hands flying to cover ears. After a pause in which the Survivors relax again, Jeff leans into the wagon and pushes it several more feet, the annoying squeaks once more filling the air. Then he laughs and steps around to the front of the wagon. “OK, I think that’s where we want it to be now.” Several of the Survivors scowl at him angrily, but he doesn’t seem to notice. “Today’s Challenge is a real brainteaser,” he says. “In the old days, pirates used to have to make sense of some pretty badly damaged treasure maps in order to find their loot.” He turns and cranks up the wood chipper. “You’ll have to do the same thing,” he yells over the din of the machine. Reaching into his pants pockets, he retrieves two partial maps and holds them over his head, one in each hand. “This is the second clue to your buried treasure,” he shouts. He tosses one map into the chipper, and tiny, sawdust-sized pieces spit out the top and spray in a wide pile on the sand. Jeff then wheels the wagon in the opposite direction and throws in the other map. “First tribe to successfully reassemble their map wins the second clue. They also get to do the whole pirating thing at the other camp.” After the Drakes decide to sit out Jon and Rupert, Jeff readies the others by raising his arm. “Survivors ready? Go!”
The Morgans dash to their pile of mulch and immediately begin yelling instructions to one another. The Drake tribe walks to theirs and stands over the strewn pieces, trying to evaluate if it’s even possible to re-assemble the original map. Jeff, meanwhile, has moved the wagon yet again and is amusing himself by throwing various items into the chipper and watching their remains blast out the top. The whining of the chipper drowns out all the discussion the Survivors are having.
The Challenge takes several hours to complete. The competitors break into subgroups, with half of each tribe heading into the jungle to forage for food. Fires are started. Water is boiled. The sun begins to set. Jeff has removed every artifact of interest in a twenty-yard radius around the chipper and is now heading off into the trees to find more goodies to shred. Still, the Challenge rages on. In the darkness of the late evening, with tribe members holding flaming sticks over their heads to provide light, the Morgans finally complete their map. The jagged edges of each tiny piece make it virtually impossible to actually read the map, but it’s clear from a visual inspection that is has been reassembled properly.
“Morgan wins,” Jeff yawns. “I’m outta here. Hope they left me some steak.” He flips off the chipper and begins pushing the squeaky wagon back into the jungle.
“Wait!” Andrew cries. “How are we supposed to transport the map?”
“Oh, yeah,” Jeff says. “You didn’t think that was the real map segment, did you?” He chuckles. “No, I’ve got your actual map piece right here.” He reaches into his pocket. Then his hand freezes. He quickly slides his hand up and pats his shirt pocket. He checks both pants pockets. He begins patting himself all over, as if he were on fire. His face is tense, his eyes wide. Finally, he glances at the mountainous pile of debris ejected from the chipper while he was waiting. “Um, we might have a problem,” he croaks.
Later, back at Morgan camp, the group uses the machete to etch the map into a tree stump. Jeff had given the tribe an extra hour to review the reconstructed map and commit it to memory. Each tribe member had memorized a portion of the map, and everyone was now desperately trying to retain those memories before they evaporated in the face of total sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, when they’re finished, the “map” is completely worthless. Too many details are forgotten or misremembered for it to be of any use. The tribe doesn’t know that, though. They finally head off to bed, feeling a misplaced sense of achievement.
Next morning, Jeff arrives to take one member of the tribe over to Drake to pillage an item. The tribe, of course, selects Andrew. “Get our tarp back!” a weakened Osten calls from his prone position in the shelter.
“Or fishing supplies,” suggests Lill.
“Look for a blanket or something we can make clothes with,” adds Tijuana.
Andrew nods in understanding, then boards the boat with Jeff and heads off to Drake Island. The other tribe members wait anxiously for his return.
“We will be protected from the elements,” whispers Osten.
“We will have protein and nourishment,” Lill sighs.
“We will be warm,” Tijuana breathes.
When Andrew finally returns, the rest of the tribe gathers around him tightly, in eager anticipation of examining the tribe’s new booty. Even Osten rolls over onto his side and peeks out of the shelter to see what’s going on.
In obvious embarrassment, Andrew reaches into his pocket and reveals their prize. “I found this spoon,” he said.
The tribe is silent for some time. Finally, Osten speaks. “What about our tarp, man?”
Andrew scratches his cheek thoughtfully. “They said it was carried off to sea the night we tried to raid their camp. I guess that big guy didn’t bring it back after we left.”
“Fishing supplies?” Lill peeped, tears seeping from the corners of her eyes.
“None that I could see. I guess they used to have a spear, but one of the guys lost the tip on the bottom of the ocean. The big fella was out looking for it, in fact, when I arrived.”
Tijuana screams in frustration. “What about blankets? Clothing? Food? Anything?!”
Andrew holds up his hands in a calming gesture. “Seriously, guys, they had nothing! The place was barren. We’re doing so much better than them it’s ridiculous.”
Ryan shakes his head in confusion. “It seemed like they had so much more when we were over there the other night. But...it was pretty dark, I guess. Hard to say.”
Andrew nods eagerly. “That’s right. It was dark. And being without their spoon is really going to hurt them. Just think. Without this,” and he holds up the spoon dramatically, “they’ll make a big mess when they’re eating mushy food items. That’s a real morale killer. Give me a break, guys. It was the best I could do.”
Back at Drake Beach, the tribe is busily restoring their camp to perfect working order. Pots and pans are dug out of the sand, Rupert recovers the spear head from the ocean floor, the tarp and other supplies are hauled out of the forest. In minutes, everything’s back the way it was, and the tribe members high-five one another in exultation. “All right, folks,” says Burton. “Let’s go dominate this Immunity Challenge.”
Jeff is waiting for the tribes at Challenge Duck Shark Snapper Beach Bay. He’s standing next to a phone-booth-sized structure which is completely covered in a giant sheet. When the tribes are assembled on their mats, Jeff approaches Rupert. “First thing’s first,” he says, snatching the Immunity Idol out of Rupert’s hands. He turns and throws the Idol at a distant tree. It rotates rapidly end over end, then the blade buries itself to the hilt in the tree trunk. The skull pops off the top of the Idol and tumbles to the ground, coming to rest upside-down with its one “good” eye staring sightlessly at the Survivors, who murmur nervously to one another. “Immunity,” Jeff says. “Back up for grabs.”
“Today’s Challenge involves that most enduring of pirate symbols, the parrot,” he says. “When you think of pirates’ shoulders, what do you think of? Fluffy white cats? No. Pythons? Of course not. Batteries? Bah! We all think of parrots. Today, we’ll test your ability to tame a wild giant parrot.” He grabs an edge of the sheet. “Please say ‘Welcome’...to Jurassic Parrot.” He whips the sheet off the structure next to him, revealing an immense bird cage with a very large and brightly-colored parrot inside. The bird is about the size of a small bear. Upon seeing the Survivors, Jurassic Parrot ruffles its feathers and squawks. Shawn shrieks in fear and flees to the safety of the forest. “Let him go,” Jeff says. “You guys need to sit out two, anyway.”
He swings open the door of the cage, and Jurassic Parrot hops out, squawking inquisitively before flapping up and gripping Jeff’s shoulder. Jeff lets out a little cry and immediately collapses to his knees. He leans forward and braces himself with his outstretched arms. The parrot adjusts its position to account for Jeff’s all-fours posture. It gazes placidly at the Survivors.
“I call him JP,” Jeff gasps, his arms beginning to shake. “He’s genetically enhanced, in case you couldn’t tell. I’ve had him in my house for several months so I could train him. He responds only to my commands.”
“JP,” Lill says. “Just like you.”
Jeff nods quickly, his face straining with the effort. “Exactly,” he says. “Now, JP, to your perch. Go.” JP flaps lazily over to a perch near the cage. Jeff climbs slowly to his feet and takes a few deep breaths before continuing. “OK, your Challenge today will be to ride JP for as long as possible. As I said, he is wild so you’ll have to surprise him. You can’t just walk up to him and climb aboard.” He walks to a deep hole in the ground, beside which has been placed a covered dinner platter. He hops down into the hole. Just the top of his head is visible within. “You hide in the sand to ride it, see?” he says, craning his neck so he can peek out of the hole and grin into the camera. “JP will come over to the platter and feast on what’s inside. When you think you’re ready, you leap out of the hole and grab on. Once JP is completely off the ground, we’ll start the timer. As soon as you let go of JP, the clock stops. Six of you from each tribe will take turns riding JP. The tribe with the highest cumulative total time aboard JP wins Immunity. Everyone got it?” He crawls out of the hole and looks around at the nodding Survivors. “OK, Drake, Shawn’s long gone so you’ll just need to pick out one more person to sit out.” The group selects Jon out of habit, and Jeff has no complaint.
As Rupert climbs down into the hole, Jeff removes the lid of the dinner platter, revealing several neat stacks of Saltine crackers. JP’s eyes widen, and he flies gracefully over to the platter. “Rrrawwk! Burnett’s a jerk!” he cries as he begins eating the crackers.
Jeff laughs nervously. “That nutty JP. Always making jokes. Um, anyway, Rupert ready?” He raises one hand, then quickly switches arms. “Go!”
JP is munching away on a cracker, eyeing the Survivors curiously, when Rupert eases himself out of the hole behind the parrot. With a roar, he leaps onto JP’s back, clutching a handful of thick feathers. “Rrawwwk!! I’m the star of this show!” JP shrieks, powering into the air. Rupert manages to hold on for a mere five seconds before losing his grip and falling to the ground.
Tijuana climbs into the hole and awaits JP’s return. The bird lands once more next to the cracker tray and resumes eating, seemingly completely unperturbed by his recent frenzied activity. “Rrrawwk!! I want my own talk show!” Tijuana emerges from the hole and grabs one of JP’s legs. The parrot flies around wildly for about ten seconds before Tijuana lets go and drops to earth.
Ultimately, only Osten has yet to ride JP. Drake has a measly three-second lead. If Osten can stay aboard for just four seconds, the Morgans will win Immunity. He sits at the bottom of the hole, hunched over and shivering, with his eyes half-closed. JP is finishing up the crackers on the tray. “Rrrawwwk! Where are my high heels?”
“OK!” Jeff shouts. “Let’s get a move on, Osten, huh?”
Osten struggles out of the hole, his tongue lolling out of his mouth. He sneaks up behind JP and jumps onto its back. JP leaps straight into the air, then gives a tremendous shake at the top of the jump. Osten yelps, then gropes futilely at JP’s slick feathers before sliding off the back of the bird and onto the sand. Total time: less than a second.
“Drake wins Immunity again!” Jeff shouts. “JP, back to your cage!”
The bird swoops around in the air and lands in front of Jeff. He nuzzles Jeff with his beak before hopping back into the cage. “Rrrawwwk! Do these fishnet stockings make my butt look big?”
“ALL RIGHT!” Jeff roars. “That’s the end of the Challenge. Morgan, we’ll see you at Tribal Council tomorrow night.”
He wheels the giant cage into the forest at a dead sprint. “Rrawwk!! Look what I found at Victoria’s Secret today!”
The following evening, Osten begs to be voted out. He stands before the tribe and coughs piteously. “I’m wasting away,” he sobs. “I can’t breathe. My joints ache. I’m certain I have the bubonic plague. I need medical attention. Just get me out of here!”
After his heartfelt plea, the tribe votes 4-2 to boot Lill. Osten wails in despair as Lill’s torch is snuffed. “It’ll be all right, Osten,” Andrew assures him. “We just need your strength for the Challenges.” He hoists Osten onto his back and gives him a piggy-back ride back to the boat, where Osten can rest comfortably as they hand-paddle their way back to camp.
And the visions are gone. Not a moment too soon, either. I think I’m about to pass out from exhaustion. Maybe next weekend will be more restful. I’ll let you know when you return. See you then!
Your comments are welcome. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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