Hi, there! Yeah, just step around those boxes over there. Sorry the place is in such disarray. As you may know, I run a seasonal business here, and with Survivor nearly done, I’m going to have to relocate from this huge shop to a smaller venue. In preparation for this, I’ve purchased a used hot dog cart. A really nice one, in fact, with one of those fancy umbrellas and everything. Great big wheels, too, which will come in handy if I have to lift one side of the cart and make a run for it when the police ask me for my food permit. Most days, I won’t be dispensing hot dogs, just visions of the future, so why would I need a food permit, anyway? At any rate, I’ll store as much of this stuff as I can in the hot dog cart. The cracked crystal ball, for example, goes in the main cooler for added protection. The rest of it, like that genie lamp right next to your elbow, will have to go in my storage unit. That dumb lamp never worked, anyway. I think you have to do something other than rub the thing to get the genie to come out. But punching it, kicking it, and throwing it off the roof didn’t work, either. You can have it if you want. Anyway, let’s get right to it, shall we? I’m eager to find out what will happen in the next episode of this incredible Survivor series. Ah, there’s the title of the episode, slowly taking shape in the misty recesses of the cracked crystal ball. My goodness, what an odd title! It’s
The Chance To Unrepeat Stuff
It’s early morning on Day 34. Butch and Matthew are lounging in the boat, fishing lines dangling limply in the water. “Tell me something, Mateo,” Butch says. “Why did Christy get voted off last night? Isn’t she part of The Chain?”
Matthew stares intently at Butch for several seconds without speaking. A fish levitates out of the water and settles gently at Butch’s feet, where he whacks it on the head and throws it in a pot with several other fish. “Surely I don’t need to remind you that you are not to initiate conversation about The Chain?” Matthew finally says. “The workings of The Chain are on a need-to-know basis only. Remember?”
Butch nods. “Of course I remember all that stuff, but I’m starting to get a little nervous. Christy was a good girl. I was certain we were the final four. Now I’m confused. I feel betrayed by The Chain.”
“You must have faith in The Chain, my friend,” Matthew purrs reassuringly. “You’re still here, aren’t you?”
“There you go. Obey The Chain, and be ready to latch. That’s all I can say. Now we must be silent. The River has ears.”
As if on cue, two people leap out of the water on either side of the boat. Butch yelps in fear, while Matthew leaps to his feet and assumes a defensive posture in the exact center of the boat. His machete has appeared in his hands, as if by magic, and it glistens magnificently in the morning sun. A piece of lint drifts by and is sliced perfectly in half by the stationary machete blade. When the splashing settles, the two men recognize Heidi and Jenna, who have apparently braved the piranha to make their surprise appearance. They pull themselves into the boat as Matthew stands down from his battle stance.
“What are you two doing?!” Butch cries. “Matt could have killed you!”
“I still might,” Matthew growls.
“Oh, we just wanted to wish Butch a happy birthday,” Jenna says, smoothing her wet hair back with both hands. She runs her tongue along her lower lip.
“It’s – it’s – it’s. Uh, it’s not my birthday,” Butch splutters.
“Don’t jump to any conclusions just yet,” Heidi says. She places her hand on her hips and awkwardly twists her body away from Butch so she can look back at him over her shoulder. She looks like a gruesome scarecrow with a pumpkin’s head.
“Could you excuse us for a few minutes, Matt?” Jenna says, gazing with smoky eyes directly into Butch’s soul.
“Of course,” Matthew says graciously. He tries unsuccessfully to catch Butch’s gaze before climbing over the side of the boat and walking back to shore on the surface of the river.
Heidi and Jenna move closer to Butch. Their clothes are torn where the piranha discovered the swimming women on their trip over to the boat. Not a big deal under most circumstances, but both women elected to wear their two-piece bikinis for the trip. The Squiggle-Dot Machine will be active for this episode. Butch swallows nervously and gasps for air. “What can I do for you ladies?” he squeaks.
“Well, Butch,” Jenna says. “We couldn’t help but notice how surprised you were about the vote last night.” She leans forward and inches toward him on hands and knees. Butch falls back and begins to crawl away on his elbows and heels. Soon, he’s wedged into the bow of the boat, sweat pouring off his forehead. “Doesn’t that worry you, Butch?” Jenna breathes, her hand now touching his knee.
Butch wipes his brow with his shirt sleeve. “We’ve been here nearly five weeks, and I’ve never heard you actually address me by name until today. And now you’ve done it twice. What do you want?”
Heidi slinks forward and crouches in front of Butch like a frog’s idea of a fertility goddess. “Final three, Butch,” she hisses. “You, Jenna, and me. Think about it.”
“I’m final three already. With Rob and Matt. Why do I need you?”
“Do you really need to ask?” Jenna asks, massaging his leg with her hand.
“I’m a married man!” Butch protests. “Happily married! You girls run along now.”
Heidi snorts. “Married?! Your wife has just abandoned you in the Amazon Rainforest, for heaven’s sake! When’s the last time you even saw her?”
“Two days ago,” Butch says. “At the Reward Challenge.”
“Oh, yeah.” Heidi looks at Jenna in wide-eyed desperation.
“Final two!” Jenna blurts. “If I win Immunity at the final three, I take you and not Heidi. How’s that?”
“Hey!” Heidi shouts. “No fair! You said we were the final two! I’m so confused.”
“Shut up, Heidi!” Jenna says. “I’m working a deal right now. Don’t worry. I won’t stab you in the back.”
“Better not!” Heidi says grumpily. She folds her arms and pouts.
Butch smiles patronizingly. “All right,” he says. “I’m sold. Who are we going after?”
Before the women can answer, someone yells out from the opposite bank. It’s Rob. “Rewaaaaard Challenge!” he yells.
Heidi and Jenna look at each other and nod. “Him,” they say in unison.
The group heads off to Challenge Beach and are surprised to find that Jeff is nowhere to be seen. They stand around awkwardly with their hands in their pockets. “Are you sure this is the right place?” Matthew asks Rob.
“Duh, Matt! It’s Challenge Beach! All our Challenges take place here!”
“Right, right,” Matthew mutters.
Somewhere deep in the trees, a low rumble begins. It gets louder and louder until finally a car bursts out of the trees and powers through the sand directly at the Survivors. The group screams and scatters. The car veers off and chases after Matthew, who begins to run in a serpentine fashion to try to shake off his pursuer. The car fishtails back and forth but stays right behind him. Matthew heads directly for a large tree. Right beneath the tree, he stops running, gathers himself, and launches himself straight up into the highest branches. The car turns broadside and skids helplessly into the solid trunk of the tree with a loud crunch. The engine dies, and a loud obscenity is heard from within the car. Suddenly, a foot smashes through the passenger-side window, and Jeff hauls himself through the hole left behind. He’s wearing driving gloves, and his sunglasses are hanging from one ear. His face is scuffed up from the air bag, which is visible, fully inflated, through the shattered window when he emerges from the car.
As he slowly removes his gloves, one finger at a time, Jeff gazes silently at the wrecked car, which now has steam rising through the seams around the hood. He sniffs once and re-adjusts his sunglasses before finally turning to the quaking Survivors, who have reconvened on their starting mat. “Wanna know what you’re playing for?” he asks, then laughs bitterly. “Yep, that’s it. That’s a brand-new Saturn Ion over there. The winner of today’s Challenge gets it, assuming we can somehow airlift it out of here. Or maybe we could carve it into pieces with a cutting torch and deliver it to you in a giant crate. Worst case, I guess, is we just leave it here. At least you’ll know you have a car waiting for you if you ever come back to the Amazon. Oh, well. I suppose we should still play out the Challenge. Somebody might be interested in paying taxes on a wrecked car. OK, here’s the deal. First off, we’re going to hog-tie Matthew. Wrap him up head to toe with rope. The other four of you will pick him up and run laps around this beach until you get tired. Last person standing wins the car. So the question is...how bad do you want it?” He gestures at the vehicle, which looks like it has a small fire burning in the front seat.
Matthew raises a hand. “How do I win the car?”
Jeff shakes his head. “I knew you’d ask something like that. So typical. You’re just as self-serving as the rest of them, no matter how much you try to hide it with all your big sacrifices and what-not. Well, if you must know, the only way you can win is to free yourself of all your bindings and then neutralize everyone else who’s still in the Challenge.”
Rob immediately raises his hand. “What do you mean, ‘neutralize’?” he asks when called upon.
“You know, take you out of commission. Make sure you can’t move. Something like that.”
Robs begins applauding. “Congratulations, Mateo! You win!” He turns to the other three Survivors and nods encouragingly. The others slowly start clapping, as well. Soon, the enthusiastic roars and whistles of all four of the other Survivors echo through the forest. Birds and other skittish wildlife bolt from their shelters. Matthew raises his hands over his head in triumph, then bows deeply, acknowledging the generosity of his tribemates.
“Wait, wait!” Jeff cries. “What are you doing? He’s going to be bound. And I mean tightly. There’s no way he can get loose. This Challenge is designed for one of the four of you to win. Don’t you want a car?” He points to the now-completely-on-fire Ion. “He can’t do anything to you!” he whines.
“Do you know that?” Rob asks.
Jeff is silent for a while before nodding grimly. “You’re right. Well, then my announcement here won’t make you happy. That’s not really the car he gets. That’s Burnett’s new ride, in fact.” Jeff laughs as a distant wail pierces the air. “Here you go, Matt. Your new car.” He flips a small gift-wrapped package to Matthew. It’s the perfect size for a set of car keys. Matthew quickly unwraps it and pops open one end of the box. He empties the contents into his hand. It’s a small Hot Wheels version of the Saturn Ion. Jeff bursts out laughing. “A new car!” he howls. “Get it?” He slumps to his knees and holds his sides as his laughing begins to completely overwhelm him physically.
The Survivors decide on their own that this Challenge is over and head out. Jeff’s laughter can be heard all the way back in camp. Later that day, his laughter finally fades and is replaced by some sort of banging. For the rest of the evening and the entire next day, the Survivors can hear the loud sounds of construction echoing from the general direction of Challenge Beach. Finally, word arrives that it’s time for the Immunity Challenge. The five Survivors head out. When they arrive, they stop on the edge of the clearing and stare in amazement at the awesome sight before them. The dark tower has returned. Around its base are five giant mounds of dirt. There’s a door at the edge of the clearing with a maze of red velvet ropes in front of it. And standing abreast in the exact middle of Challenge Beach are five Jeff Probsts, each wearing a name tag that says “Hello, My Name Is” and one of the Survivors’ names. The Jeff-bots have returned. Rob shrieks and turns to run. Matthew grabs him by the shirt collar and drags him toward Jeff himself, who is sitting in a lawn chair in front of the droids, a handful of goggles in his right hand.
When the Survivors are assembled in front of him, Jeff stands and greets the group. “Welcome to the Immunity Challenge. First thing’s first. Immunity back up for grabs.”
“Would you like the Necklace?” Heidi inquires.
“Oh, right. Sorry. I was on auto-pilot a little bit there.” He pulls it over Heidi’s head without unfastening it, briefly catching her nose in the process. Then he hands everyone a pair of goggles. “OK, let’s talk about today’s Challenge. How many of you have screwed up at some point in this game? And I’d better see every hand in the air.” Four hands shoot up. Matthew folds his arms. “Well, they say history repeats itself, which would not be good news for those of you have made mistakes in previous Challenges, for example. But, today, you get a chance to ‘unrepeat’ stuff. There’s always a second chance to recycle our Challenges in Survivor, and today’s the day. If you can fix the problems you made last time, you can win Immunity and guarantee yourself three more days in the Amazon.”
He pauses to look into the eyes of each contestant before continuing. “Here’s how it’ll work. You’ll strap on your goggles so The Brain can dazzle you with frightening images. Then you’ll race to the top of the black tower, stopping to open the five gates on the way. The doors are not electrified this time so you’ll all have a shot to get all the way to the top. When you reach the top of the tower, you will jump off the roof and land on one of the mounds of dirt below. As you jump, your Jeff-bot will begin to climb to meet you. You and your robot enemy will wrestle for the possession of the pearl on top of the mound. And, by the way, I think we’ve got that violence subroutine bug ironed out now so you will actually have a chance at winning. Anyway, once you have the pearl in your possession, race to the door on the edge of the clearing. You must stay within the red velvet ropes on your way to the door. When you first ring your doorbell, you will de-activate your Jeff-bot. If the door does not open, however, you need to go to the back of the line and try again. After a random but predetermined number of rings, the door will open, and you can pass through. The Brain will be waiting on the other side. He will present the winner with the Immunity Necklace. Everybody understand?” The Survivors, looking a bit pale and nervous, nod their heads. “All right then. Survivors ready? Go!”
Everyone straps on their goggles. The fearsome virtual images immediately generated by The Brain cause Heidi to drop to her knees in terror. The others run to the tower and ascend the catwalks spiraling around the outside of the black tower. They frantically enter 2-digit combinations until some of the gates spring open. Jenna is in the lead, followed closely by Rob. Matthew concentrates and reads their minds, but the combinations are different for everyone this time. Butch’s gate swings aside. As he runs through, Heidi staggers up to the tower, having overcome her initial terror at whatever The Brain caused her to see. By the time she and Matthew open their first gates, the leaders are up to the third gate.
Ultimately, Rob arrives at the rooftop first. He peers over the edge at the tiny mounds of dirt far below. He cringes backwards, too frightened to leap. Simultaneously, Jenna bursts onto the roof and accidentally bumps Rob, who waves his arms wildly before falling off the side of the tower. Jenna watches with interest as he whistles down to one of the piles, sending a huge cloud of dust rolling up the side of the tower. She closes her eyes, pinches her nose, and jumps off the other side.
At the moment that Rob fell off the tower, HelloMyNameIsRob stirred to life. He is now running powerfully to the pile of dirt. He climbs effortlessly to its peak, which is more of a crater after Rob’s landing. Rob is woozily digging through the sand in search of the pearl. HelloMyNameIsRob begins to dig, as well. Within seconds, he has found the pearl and turns to head back down the pile of dirt. Rob grabs the Jeff-bot around the neck from behind and wrestles him to the ground.
Meanwhile, Matthew has overtaken Butch, and the two are hard at work on the final gate. Heidi is still struggling with gate #3, periodically shrieking at the strange visions within the goggles. Matthew’s gate pops open, and he fearlessly dives head-first off the tower. He extends a hand as he plummets toward the pile of dirt. Right before making contact with the mound, he plucks the pearl off the crest with two fingers, then tucks and rolls, cannonball-style, down the mound.
At the same time, a panicked Rob succeeds in partially dislodging the head of his Jeff-bot. HelloMyNameIsRob’s head is now lolling sideways on its neck structure, wires jutting out of a jagged tear in its skin. Rob desperately grabs for the wires and tugs at them. Unfortunately, this causes HelloMyNameIsRob to go berserk. It whirls on Rob, grabs him by the ankles and jams him directly into the center of the pile of dirt. After a few seconds, it pulls him free and throws him off the mound. Rob lands square on his back, then watches in mute horror as HelloMyNameIsRob hurls itself from the dirt mound and drops the elbow on Rob’s sternum with a metallic clang.
Jenna has found the pearl and is trying to elude her Jeff-bot by descending the mound in a spiral fashion, always keeping the robot on the opposite side of the dirt mound. Right at the bottom of the pile, Jenna catches a break. Butch, who had drifted wildly off-course on his plunge from the rooftop, catches HelloMyNameIsJenna with both feet and ricochets backwards into his own pile of dirt. Jenna’s Jeff-bot slams to the ground, its posterior severely dented. As Jenna runs off, HelloMyNameIsJenna begins to pull itself along the ground by its fingertips.
Matthew catches a glimpse of HelloMyNameIsRob twirling Rob over its head but doesn’t stop to help. His own Jeff-bot is right on his heels. He’s also beset by horrible visions of chickens in his goggles. For some reason, Matthew fears chickens. He staggers into the rope maze and weaves his way to the door. Diving under the ropes, though, HelloMyNameIsMatt seizes his ankles and hauls him to the ground. Matthew kicks wildly to try to free himself, but the robot’s grip is too tight. Suddenly, Jenna is in the rope maze and steps over the top of Matthew on her way to the door. Right behind her is Butch, whose own Jeff-bot is limping along in pursuit, its leg smashed when Rob was inadvertently thrown into it.
In desperation, Matthew allows his leg to liquefy. HelloMyNameIsMatt’s hand abruptly clenches into a fist. Matthew pulls himself backwards and reconstitutes his leg. He leaps up and continues through the rope maze. By now, Jenna has already pressed the doorbell once, which has halted the excruciating progress of her battered droid. But the door does not open. Butch rings next, causing his Jeff-bot to freeze. The door remains shut. Right as Matthew reaches the door, HelloMyNameIsMatt leaps onto his back. As he crumples to the ground, Matthew manages to ring the doorbell. The door does not open, but the Jeff-bot is now motionless, locked onto his back.
Heidi is screaming and kicking at her Jeff-bot on top of her pile of dirt. Rob and his berserk attacker are nowhere to be seen, but there’s a loud scuffle taking place in the woods behind the tower. It appears to be down to these three. Butch, Jenna, and Matthew race as quickly as they can through the velvet ropes, ringing the doorbell in succession. Matthew is gasping audibly as he staggers under the tremendous weight of his deactivated Jeff-bot. The others manage to go through the line twice for every single trip of his because they can run around him before he gets to the back of the rope maze. Unfortunately for them, however, it is Matthew’s turn at the bell when the door finally swings open. He lunges through the doorway and collapses at the feet of Dave, otherwise known as The Brain. Dave flips a switch which deactivates the other two Jeff-bots. He then steps over Matthew and passes through the doorway with the Immunity Necklace around his own neck.
“Immunity is mine!” Dave shrieks. “I can’t be voted off. It’s the greatest comeback in Survivor history!” He flexes his arms triumphantly, revealing his plain black T-shirt which reads, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to score with the ladies. But it helps.”
“Give me that!” Jeff barks. He covers Dave’s face with his hand and shoves him to the ground, yanking the Necklace off in the process. He steps through the doorway and rolls over the Jeff-bot to see who’s underneath. He sighs in exasperation. “Immunity to Matthew...again. Unbelievable.” He drops the Necklace on the ground and wanders off.
It’s a weary group that gathers at Tribal Council that night. Matthew still has the Jeff-bot latched onto his back. Rob is bruised, and he has several limbs in slings or casts. Only Butch seems happy, nestled comfortably between Heidi and Jenna, who are massaging his neck and feet throughout. When the votes are tallied, Heidi is booted 3-2. She leaps to her feet in rage and whirls on Jenna. “You told me you wouldn’t stab me in the back! You betrayed me!” She stomps off in a rage after her torch is extinguished, too angry to hear Jenna vainly protest her innocence. The three men exchange high fives as Heidi disappears.
“Thank you, Chain!” Butch mumbles under his breath.
And now the visions are gone. I’ll see you in just a couple of days when we can discuss the grand finale of Survivor:The Amazon. You can tell me then if you got that crazy lamp to work for you.
Your comments are welcome. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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