Hello! I see you there, walking aimlessly along the sidewalk. You look lost and confused. I’m not surprised. You’re seeking the truth, but you have no idea where to find me. Come. Climb into my Chariot of Foreknowledge. It looks like a Honda, doesn’t it? Ever since the whole parlor inferno incident, I’ve been on the road, looking for a new base of operations. As I had foreseen, I’m catching all sorts of attitude from the insurance company and the lenders. Oh, but look at me! I’m getting all worked up again. That’s not why you’re here. Reach into the back seat and grab that cracked crystal ball for me, would you? Thanks. Oh, look! It’s already completely full with wispy future-telling smoke! And right there in the middle is the title for this week’s episode:
Pile The Bats On A Tray
It’s late evening of Day 27, and the seven remaining members of the Chuay Jai tribe are not yet back from Tribal Council. Francois the French Expatriate Monkey (a.k.a. Magilla) is pacing nervously at the entrance to the cave. He keeps looking at his wrist, forgetting that the production crew forbids the wearing of watches. “Where are they?” he wonders. “Surely, they must be hours late.” Francois tries to unwind by putting a hand on his hip and moistening the ground, but it’s no use. He can’t relax until they get home.
Presently, a thumping, gasping, whuffing noise is heard. The tribe is returning! Francois executes a quick head-swivel to make sure everything is prepared for their arrival, then he leaps up into a tree and covers his mouth with one quivering paw. Ted and Brian arrive first, yawning and shuffling their feet. Little Clay is reclining on Ted’s broad shoulder, fast asleep. The men throw their torches to the side and begin to run to the cave. Beautiful sleep is just moments away. Suddenly, Ted’s foot drags through a concealed rope vine, which is attached to a precarious pile of the tribe’s dishes and some carefully selected personal belongings, such as Brian’s guitar. The entire pile tumbles noisily to the ground. In the process, the large barrel of noodles topples over, as well, spilling its contents all over the ground. The tribe, though startled, is too tired to do anything about the big mess. They all agree to fix everything in the morning after everyone’s had a good night’s sleep. Francois dances wildly in his tree, eagerly anticipating an all-night gorge-fest on the tribe’s previously-secured noodles. “These people,” he thinks to himself. “Where the heck did they find such a bunch of idiots?”
Next morning, Ted wanders out of the cave and discovers the full brilliance of Francois’ plan. Every single noodle from the barrel has been eaten, as has any other food item that wasn’t somehow hidden. “Magilla!” the burly programmer cries, shaking his fist in the air. “When I catch you, you are dead!” Angrily, he begins rustling through the scattered debris. Before long, Brian staggers out of the cave, wiping the crusties out of his eyes. Clay is riding on Brian’s head, his two tiny fists clutching clumps of Brian’s tangled hair like horse’s reins. No words are needed to understand what has happened. Clay climbs off Brian’s head and slides down the side of his body to the ground. The three men wordlessly work together, shoving things aside until Brian’s guitar is uncovered. With a sigh of relief, the trio slumps to the ground and gets started with the daily regimen of lounging. Brian plucks out an atonal melody and sings some musically mismatching words to go with it. It’s going to be a good day.
Brian’s horrible noises wake up the rest of camp within minutes. First to appear is Helen, looking crabby and borderline homicidal, just like normal. Apparently, she’s a morning person. Little Clay nudges Ted in the ribs and grins mischievously. He looks like the class clown at a school for Leprechauns. “Watch this, Teddy, my boy,” he peeps. Turning to Helen, he calls out, “Hey, Helen, I was curious. What do you know about the history of the Olympic Games?” Ted and Brian snicker and give Clay the thumbs-up.
Helen’s head cocks to the side for an instant and her eyes drift gently out of focus. Then she begins to speak: “The modern Olympic Games began in 1896 in Athens, Greece. They were a revival of the ancient Olympic Games, which were primarily a religious celebration to honor Zeus, king of the gods. A French aristocrat, Pierre de Coubertin, is credited with reviving the modern Olympic Games...” As she heads off into the jungle to collect firewood, her voice fades, but she continues to speak.
Brian and Ted lean down to offer high-fives to little Clay. It’s going to be an very good day. When the rest of the tribe emerges from the cave, Jake and Penny head off to get water. The boys inform Jan that rumors are afoot of a pocket of dead animals over by the Tree Mail delivery area. She heads off at a gallop, sobbing uncontrollably. Every chore except cooking breakfast is now being performed by other members of the tribe, and Helen will doubtless get to work on that when she returns from gathering firewood. The Three Lazy Dudes smile smugly at one another and settle in for a quick nap. It’s going to be an excellent day!
Helen and Jan return simultaneously. “The rings on the Olympic flag represent the union of the five original continents: Asia, America, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. The continents themselves, however, are not uniquely identified by their color. The colors, in fact, are irrelevant and must be considered to be no more than an aesthetically pleasing combination of hues.”
Jan cuts her off so she can conduct her bi-weekly clue skit. Just as Jake and Penny pull the boat up onto the beach and walk up with more water, Jan begins. “Way-ell, y’all. Ah have the clew. Ah have the clew.” She puts her hands on her hips and marches in place for a few steps, then dances around in a circle. She tips her head back and cackles out, “And if you want to hear it, you’re gonna hafta – URK!” She’s suddenly silenced by Ted’s meaty hand at her throat. Clay jumps up and gnaws on her hand until she releases the clue. Brian scoops it up and reads it aloud to everyone:
Another Reward Challenge.
Seems we’re running out of ideas.
You signed that big contract, though,
So get off your butts and come see us.
The tribe arrives at Challenge Beach, where Jeff is standing in front of seven circular stumps on the ground. “Welcome, everyone,” he says.
“Welcome!” Ted hollers.
Jeff squints at Ted but decides not to say anything. “All right, everyone. Find a stump and stand on it, all right?” He waits until everyone has chosen a stump. He waits a little longer while Clay climbs to the top of his. “OK, now before we get started, I just want to take a little poll. Does anybody understand what we’re doing in this game? I mean, do you get it? Do you have a handle on what we’re trying to accomplish here every week? Just a quick show of hands. Who has it all figured out? Go ahead. Raise your hands now if you know. Anyone? Anyone?” The Survivors exchange confused glances with one another, but no hands go in the air. Jeff throws his head back and laughs. “Oh, that’s priceless! You guys really are dumb. I don’t know where we found you, but I’m not giving you back. Your idiocy amuses me every week, and it’s going to translate into great ratings back home. I just know it.” He chuckles some more and wipes his eyes. “OK. Whew. That was good stuff. Anyway, here’s what it is: assumptions. Every time I see you, I try to shatter every assumption you may have formed in the past several days. For example, you guys have assumed that the production crew does not want you to get hurt. That’s wrong. Pain equals ratings, people. Do you really think poisonous snakes just fall out of trees? Puh-leeze! We’ve been throwing them at you.” Jan begins to weep silently.
Jeff smiles. “And here’s another assumption. I’m sure you’ve all assumed that you would remain one happy merged tribe until the end of the game. As usual, you’re wrong, you braying jackasses. I’d like you to get off your stumps and pull out the new buff you’ll find underneath.” Everyone steps off their stump except for Clay, who is obligated to leap to the ground from atop his stump. Each buff has the name of one of the Survivors on it, and each is a different color. Ted, for example, slips a burgundy “Helen” buff onto his head. Jeff speaks again. “You are now seven tribes living together on the same beach! Freaky, huh?”
There’s a long, awkward silence before Penny finally speaks. “How is that really any different from our current situation?”
Jeff looks at her sharply, staring at her until she breaks and looks at the ground. When he finally speaks, his voice is tinged with malice. “Would you like eight tribes, Ms. Smart-Mouth? Is that it? Huh? I didn’t think so. Just quit asking questions, you fools. It’s time to play. Today’s Reward Challenge is a simple game of Capture the Flag. All you have to do is find the flag matching your buff color somewhere in the jungle and bring it back. That’s really it. We’re getting bored with all these Reward Challenges, frankly. It’s much more fun for us to try to figure out new ways to kill you. Oh, almost forgot. Wanna know what you’re playing for?”
Jan’s quivering voice pipes up. “B-b-beans?”
“NO! Assumptions, people! Boy, I feel like I’m talking to a bunch of cinder blocks sometimes. Sheesh. Anyway, you’re actually playing for a plasma bag full of pureed bean stuff. If your tribe wins the Reward Challenge, you’ll spend the afternoon on a gurney while we drip pure beans into your blood stream. All right. Survivors ready? Go!”
Nobody moves. They shuffle around awkwardly for a bit before Jake finally speaks. “Ahh, well, hayll, Jeff. Thank mose everun heerud rutha take a bull steer harn to the bella en av beans in air blud. Salla same tayoo, we all’ll jus rahd on home.” Translation: “The tribe’s interest in a bean drip is minimal. We will return to camp.”
Jeff is fuming. “You guys really are a piece of work, aren’t you? All right, forget the Reward Challenge. Follow me. We’re going right into the Immunity Challenge. Immediately. We’ll see how you fare with no food at all in your stomach and no beans in your blood. This should be rich!”
Jeff leads them into the deep jungle behind the former Sook Jai Camp. They ultimately arrive at the Bat-Cave originally discovered by Ken and Robb. Mark Burnett emerges from a cluster of nearby trees. He’s encumbered by several butterfly nets, some towels and bottles, and a stack of cafeteria-style lunch trays. When he arrives, he throws all the supplies at Jeff’s feet and glares at him for a while. “I don’t agree with your decision on this one, Probst,” he says. “I’ll be looking for 100 pushups out of you when you get back to headquarters.” Jeff hangs his head in shame as Burnett sprints back into the trees.
With a sigh, Jeff describes the Challenge. “OK, here’s how it’s going to work. Once everyone has all their equipment, we’ll enter the Bat-Cave. On my go, we’ll explode a string of firecrackers in the cave. This should startle the bats out of their sleep. Hundreds, if not thousands, of bats will then swarm you on their way out of the cave. You must capture as many as you can with your butterfly net. Then you’ll need to put them out by pouring chloroform from your bottle onto your towel and then placing the towel over the nose and mouth of the bats as they struggle in your net. Once they’re out, stack them onto your tray and race out here to me. The tribe with the fewest bats on its tray loses and joins me at Tribal Council in two days. The other six tribes all win Immunity Necklaces. If more than one tribe is eligible to lose Immunity, the loser is the tribe that arrives last. Everybody understand?”
Clay is struggling to lift his net above his head. It appears to be much larger and heavier than him. “What the hell kind of Challenge is this?” he snaps. “I’ve never heard of anything so ridiculous.”
Jeff flushes red. “Well, admittedly, we haven’t had time to play-test this one. It’s just a little something I came up with last night. But I think it could be really fun. Just work with me on this one, OK? This is the very first Challenge of mine we’ve ever used. Be nice. All right, let’s go to the cave.”
The Survivors nervously step into the dark cave and spread out as much as they can in such a tiny space. Jeff lights a match and holds it to the fuse of a string of little firecrackers. His face is glowing with excitement. “Survivors ready? Go!” He hurls the firecrackers deep into the cave and takes off for the entrance at a dead sprint.
There’s a moment’s pause and then the firecrackers rattle to life like machine gun fire. In an explosion of flashing wings, thousands of bats burst off the walls and swarm to the cave entrance. As one, all of the Survivors scream in terror. The air is so thick with bats that all light itself is absorbed by their furry bodies. The Survivors begin blindly waving their nets around, ferociously pounding each other with them in the process. The torrent of bats continues for nearly thirty seconds before the cave is completely clear. Jan and Jake are laying unconscious on the floor. Clay is apparently unscathed, but he was unable to get his net in the air. It’s empty. Everyone else has nicks and cuts all over their face and arms. Miraculously, some of the nets actually contain bats. Ted, Brian, Helen, and Penny desperately try to render their bats unconscious. Several bats escape in the process. In fact, everyone but Penny eventually loses all of their bats. Penny is ultimately able to knock out one bat. She puts it on the tray and runs back to Jeff. Everyone else realizes that the tiebreaker is going to kick in and scampers back with their empty trays. Jake and Jan are still laying on the floor of the cave, breathing deeply. It’s going to come down to which one of them regains consciousness first.
As dusk descends, the other Survivors finally hear a groaning and stirring from within the cave. Someone inside shuffles to their feet. They hear the scraping of a lunch tray against the floor of the cave. Finally, a figure emerges. It’s Jan! She staggers over to the finish line and Jeff puts the final Immunity Necklace around her neck. He heads into the cave and rolls Jake onto his back. Jeff slaps him around until he groggily wakes up. “Sorry, Ted Tribe,” Jeff says. “You lost. I’ll see you at Tribal Council in two days.”
When Tribal Council finally arrives, Jakes walks in by himself and just stares at Jeff. “Hm, well, this is kinda weird, isn’t it, Jake?”
“I guess I don’t even have any questions. We should have thought this through better. Anyway, it’s time to vote. Oh. Wait. You can’t vote for anyone since you can’t vote for yourself. Um...I guess you just lose. Why don’t you bring me your torch?”
Jake wanders over and watches his flame get snuffed.
Jeff looks confused. “I guess I can’t even say, ‘The Tribe has spoken,’ can I?” he asks.
“Well. OK, then. See you, Jake. Don’t let the door hit you.”
And now the images are gone. Come back next week. Maybe I’ll have a new place for us to sit down and observe the future.