Saturday, December 17, 2011

Survivor: The Real Thing


Disclaimer…  The following story is a purely fictional account. Any relationship to any real person living or dead is coincidental. The narrative contains non-consensual gay sex, torture, and death.  It is intended for mature readers who wish to view such material, and for whom it is legal to do so. The author in no way condones or promotes such acts in real life.

Copyright (c) 2011 by POW.  For spam prevention, an animal name has been added to the author's e-mail address.  Remove the animal name to get the actual address: POWauthor zebra at yahoo dot com.  This story may be freely copied and distributed so long as it is copied in its entirety, unchanged, including the author credit information and disclaimer.  Other POW stories are available at http://powauthor.blogspot.com.  The author welcomes feedback.

 

Survivor: The Real Thing

 

Five Years From Now

 

I happen to have in my possession a disc containing the final episode of "Survivor - The Real Thing".  Would you like me to make you a copy?

What?  You don't remember that show?  I guess I can't really blame you.  The Survivor franchise has been through so many incarnations that it's hard to keep track of them all.  All these reality shows just blend together after a while.

Still, I would have thought that someone like you, who shares the same rare, peculiar tastes that I have, would have at least heard of the show.  No?  Let me tell you about it, then.  Perhaps at the end of the story you might want to take me up on that offer of a copy of the disc.

"Survivor - The Real Thing" was the very last of the "Survivor" series.  This was the show that had really kicked off the reality genre's popularity.  People were fascinated by the idea of watching real people, average schmoes, trying to out-scheme and out-connive one another in pursuit of a prize.  Its very first edition scored huge ratings, but once the genie was out of the bottle, there was no putting it back.  Copycat shows flooded in, one after another, leading us to "The Bachelor" and "The Amazing Race" and all sorts of variations on the competition-show theme.  The market was quickly glutted, but that didn't stop producers from cranking out more and more clones.  Before long "Survivor", grand-daddy of them all, was forced to the sidelines as cycle after cycle of forgettables competed in contests that no one particularly cared about.  Ratings fell - there was only so much market share to go around.

"The Real Thing" was kind of a last-ditch effort to bring the show back to popularity again.  The original producers had been forced out in some kind of hostile takeover and Jeff Probst, the original host, got unceremoniously dumped as the new owners attempted to "reboot" the franchise.  They churned out a few seasons of pap, but the problem was, they had long ago exhausted their wellspring of new ideas.  Everything the producers could come up with had already been done.  Jaded viewers realized that, however exotic the locale might be, the truth of the matter was that there was a camera and production crew there, so no one was ever really in any danger, however the producers might contrive to make it seem that way.

So they went all-out with "Survivor - The Real Thing", "Real" in this context meaning the losers wouldn't, actually, survive.  Snuff, in other words, right there on your TV.  Hey, it worked with the swords-n-sandals genre - the more blood, the better!  And even though there are court cases still working their way through the system, I'm convinced they're going to get away with it.

To be honest, reality shows were never my thing, so I kind of tuned the whole mess out for a long time.  Even when "The Real Thing" hit the airwaves, I couldn't bring myself to care.  My interest was only piqued when I stumbled across a "VCR/Tivo" alert in a newsgroup I was cruising through.  I watched that show, and it was worth one viewing, but nothing compelling, really.  Still, I kept that episode and recorded the rest, just in case.  I'm glad I did - things certainly improved as the series progressed, though it's only when you get to the final two episodes that it really gets good.  Episode eight is the real gem, although seven isn't bad at all, it just suffers from poor editing decisions that... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Once I had a copy of the final episode in my possession, I went back and obtained copies of the rest of the earlier ones that I had missed, just to have the full set.  Much of it is the usual "immunity challenges" and "tribal ceremonies", made-to-be-broken alliances and back-stabbings and all that horse-hooey that holds no interest for me at all - the really good stuff is only on the last two discs.  Still, it might be worth your time to watch the whole thing because you get to learn the back stories of the main characters of the final drama.  I'll make copies of those for you too, if you'd like.  In case you don't want to sit through them all, here's the Cliffs Notes version.

 

"Survivor - The Real Thing" takes place on the island of Ake'epe  It's a tiny speck of land about 350 miles southwest of Guam.  The closest inhabited land is another 70 miles south, the Ulithi Atoll.   There are several inhabited islands in the atoll, with exotic-sounding names like Mangeyang, Asor, and Mogmog.  One of them, Falalop, has an airstrip on it, built during World War II by Americans and still in working order.  The island is so small that the runway takes up the entire width of the island.  From Falalop you can take a motorboat to reach the rest of the inhabited Ulithian islands.

Ake'epe ("ah-keh-eh-peh") lies farther north, the only island on a much smaller coral atoll.  If it had any kind of elevation, you might be able to see Ake'epe from Ulithi, but it doesn't.  None of the islands rises more than two meters above the high tide line, and so they are mutually invisible.

By a strange quirk of history, Ake'epe is not actually part of the territory of any of the world's nations.  It has never been inhabited, not even by Polynesians when they were hopping their way from island to island during their great expansion.  The Japanese claimed it, briefly, during World War II, but never actually occupied it.  It never registered on the Americans' radar.  The islands of Ulithi are part of the Federated States of Micronesia, but even the Ulithians say that while there's nothing particularly disagreeable about Ake'epe, they just don't see any reason why anyone would want to actually live there.

It is, in other words, one of the few specks of land on this planet, outside of Antarctica, where there is no state, no government... no law.

Being such a long distance from civilization made it the perfect place to set up a show featuring (and let's not beat around the bush here, but call it what it actually is) premeditated murder.  If you're going to commit what would be a crime under the laws of any nation on earth, the place to do it is outside the jurisdiction of any of those nations.  Ake'epe was the ideal place.  And yet its remoteness was a double-edged sword, in that it provided challenges that in the end proved to be too much for the producers and crew.

The Survivor crew got themselves to Ake'epe in the most practical way: they chartered a plane to fly themselves, their camera guys, and all their support staff from Guam to Falalop.  From there they hired a boat from the Ulithians to ferry the ten victims - er, 'scuse me, contestants - over to Ake'epe, a journey of slightly less than an hour.

I don't know where they dug the contestants up from.  As with all so-called "reality" shows, some of them seemed real enough, others like plastic caricatures of one archetype or another: "the tough guy", "the conniver", "the idealist"... you get the idea.  You would think that anyone with a shred of mathematical sense would stay away from a game where you have a 10% chance of winning five million dollars and a 90% chance of ending up dead.  It takes a lot of confidence, or perhaps self-deception, to say to yourself "I will be the one who beats the odds".

Still, they found ten of them.  I read somewhere that they had originally floated the idea of using death-row inmates.  I guess the thinking was that there were fewer ethical concerns that way, not to mention saving the state all that money by circumventing the endless appeals process.  But it didn't work out that way; they decided to go with regular shmoes instead.  I don't know what the reason was.  I also read that there were supposed to be twelve of them.  I guess two must have come to their senses at the last minute.

I'll run down the list so you know who the major players are.  You can learn all this by watching all the shows from the beginning if you want to.  You can learn a lot of other stuff, too.  For instance, did you know that the major source of fresh drinking water on coral atoll islands is a freshwater "lens"?  When rainwater soaks into the sand, it pools just below the surface, staying coherent and not diffusing into the salty sea around it.  It's a critically-important resource if you want to live on such an island.  Very good to know about if you're planning to make a home there, as these guys were.

But you can watch the show if you want to learn stuff like that.  For our purposes, it's really not necessary to know about freshwater lenses, or the names and histories of all ten of the contestants.  Not that I would want to give away the ending or anything, but if you only pay attention to, say, these four, you won't miss anything important.

First, there's Moose, who must have earned his nickname from his build.  He's a big, thick guy in his 30s, a light-skinned black fellow covered with meat and muscle.  He's the personification of arrogance and has that attitude that says he's the only person in the entire world who matters.  Everyone else is just a cardboard prop in the grand show about him.  He makes it clear in his early appearances that he is absolutely convinced that the money will be his.  It is simply inconceivable to him that he might not win.

Next up is Richard.  He's a white guy in his early 40s, a little grey around the temples but still in good physical shape.  He comes across as a moron in the first few episodes, but I think you'll suspect, as I did, that it's just an act.  He was a banker who had lost his job in an economic downturn, and then his wife and kids, and never quite got back on his feet.  His reasons for coming on the show stem from his feeling of having hit rock bottom.  He actually says that for the last year, suicide has never been far from his thoughts, and that this is his one chance to recover.  One way or another, he says at one point, he is never going back to the dismal life he had before.

The third main character is Hector, who is kind of a nothing.  He has no interesting back story, no axe to grind... he's just innocuous.  A tall, thin Latin guy from Miami, he stays mostly quiet in the initial rounds of the show, not offending anyone or standing out in any way.  If I were one of the other contestants, this would be a big red warning flag to take him out early because he would prove to be dangerous later, but maybe that's why I don't play these kinds of games.

The fourth is Lane, a 28-year-old construction worker from Denver.  Really nice build, eager and earnest, but painfully young and inexperienced.  He spends a lot of his time on the island shirtless, which is just fine by me because he is very easy on the eyes, and better yet, he has that carefree attitude that says he knows he's good-looking but he's not arrogant about it.  Gorgeous, but with an "aw, shucks," grin.  I'm sure he knew intellectually that these other guys were out to have him killed, but he still couldn't seem to help but try to be buddies with them, like this was one big beach party.  I suppose it was, for him.  At least at first.

The rest... well, they don't matter much.  There's Gunner, a 50-something biker-type who early on gets into a rivalry with Moose.  Then there's Glenn and Tony and Luis and Vic and Tyrell, the ten of them making up a fine little racially, ethnically, and socio-economically (though all-male) representative cross-section of America.  Kum-ba-yah.

So there they are, alone on a Pacific island, left to try to survive on their own with with nothing, nothing at all.  Well, "alone" and "nothing" maybe aren't exactly accurate terms, because the camera crew was there, of course.  Along with whatever support crew the camera guys needed, since I'm sure they were not willing to subsist on raw hand-caught fish and kelp and coconuts the way the contestants were.  And then there was the smarmy, oily presence of Peter Brockhart, the show's host, who I suspect would not be willing to subsist on anything less than gourmet meals.

The mere sight of that guy drives me nuts.  He took over the "Survivor" franchise's host role when Probst got canned, er, 'scuse me, "departed to pursue other opportunities".  I don't much care for most celebrity "personalities" (when I bother thinking about them at all), but Peter Brockhart has always been one of my least favorite.  His smirking face, his cocky, blow-dried news-anchor hair, his pathetic little "insights" that sound meaningful and portentous but in reality are about as deep as a bathtub... it all adds up to one loathsome bug, as far as I'm concerned.

And so episode one begins.  The first task for the contestants is to get themselves food, water, and shelter.  The first task for Peter Brockhart is to stand on a rustic-looking wooden platform above it all and squint philosophically into the sun-dappled distance.  As you watch the videos, notice how his hair is always perfect, his skin flawless.  The contestants get stained with sand and mud and sea glop, but Brockhart always looks like he just stepped out of the shower.

I'll skip over the details of "tribal meetings" and "torch ceremonies" and "immunity challenges" that the show's producers use to build an artificially-inflated sense of drama.  Those bits hold no interest for me.  Feel free to dive as deeply in as you wish.  Me, I always fast-forward to the good parts.

There aren't really any truly good bits in episodes one and two, though.  Most of episode one is spent introducing the participants and watching them scrounge around for the basic necessities.  The first death, when it occurs, is almost an afterthought.  It's almost as if the producers are having second thoughts - they've developed this show that pushes the "Survivor" concept to the absolute utmost limit in pursuit of the ratings that will come from airing the forbidden, but then they're too scared or prudish to actually deliver.

Or perhaps I'm wrong, and maybe those canny producers knew that if you promise a lot, you'll keep people watching, but the moment you actually deliver, they'll lose interest.  They did deliver eventually, though.  Just not the way they planned.

At any rate, the first to go is Vic, who loses whatever ridiculous "immunity challenge" had been set up and subsequently gets "voted off the island" by the rest.  Vic is dispatched by means of a noose strung from a high tree.  He is remarkably cooperative about it.  They show some scenes of him sanguinely reflecting on his fate, with Peter Brockhart acting as a combination of father confessor and Oprah.  He observes that this was the chance he took, and how it was a shame that it didn't work out but he knew this was a possibility, and so on.

Then Vic climbs up the tree, voluntarily puts the noose around his neck, and jumps.  The fall is far enough to snap his neck when the rope goes taut.  It's over in seconds, and while they show the preparatory steps in lovingly close-up detail, we only get to see the actual jump-snap in a far-off silhouette.  We never see what happens after that - in later episodes the camera shows that same site, but there's no body, no rope... someone must have cleaned up, but no mention is ever made of who or how or what they did with Vic's remains.

A thought struck me when I first saw this, that I had to hand it to the producers because technically, no one had committed murder: Vic killed himself.   I wasn't aware at the time about the whole outside-the-law setup, and figured that they had covered their butts very effectively.  Puritans might protest about the tastelessness of airing a suicide, but it was on pay TV, so no matter how much they shrieked, the fact was that the only people who could see it were those who had paid money for the privilege.  It would be hard for them to turn around and claim to be offended.

Anyway, on to episode two.  There's one little part worth watching near the beginning, at least from my perspective, at minute 3:13 - turns out Richard is gay.  I guess the sour economy wasn't the only reason his wife left him.  He says he doesn't hide the fact, but he doesn't go out of his way to reveal it either.  A nice healthy attitude.  And such a coincidence: the very first installment of the Survivor franchise featured a gay guy named Richard.  I think he even ended up winning.

So, fast-forward, fast-forward, ah, here we are: Tony.  This week's challenges all involve gaining sustenance from the sea.  The intrepid castaways have to build nets and spears and such to catch seafood, which they then learn to prepare and eat.  Hector brings in a fish that turns out to be the very poisonous pufon'giyep fish, and is about to toss it on the makeshift grill with the rest when Peter Brockhart steps in and stops him.  A long discussion on neurotoxins ensues in which Mr. Brockhart comes across sounding like a life-long expert on the topic, when in reality I cannot imagine him ever having even seen a picture of, let alone actually encountered, a pufon'giyep before this moment.  Nevertheless, backed up by his teleprompter-installed expertise, he bloviates his way to marine biology mavenhood.

So, fast-forward, fast-forward, tribal meeting, vote, and it's time for Tony to meet his demise.  Wanna guess how it happens?  Good call - a delicious repast of grilled pufon'giyep.

I find myself captivated more by the dinner scene than by the end result.  You can see in Tony's eyes and face that he knows what is going to happen to him, and it's that sense of anticipation that makes it so fascinating.  Where Vic went willingly to his noose, Tony does not want to die.  But he also knows he lost and really has no choice.  He talks in his exit interview about the possibility of trying to escape, but he knows it's futile.  Where would he go?  And, of equal importance, what would the others do to him if he tried to bolt?

Scattered through the first two episodes are scenes of discussion among the men of what should happen if one of them refuses to go willingly when his time comes.  Richard believes that enforcers will step in - he never talks about them explicitly, but he implies there are at least two off-camera guards present who we viewers never get to see.  Moose, on the other hand, believes that it would be up to the contestants to ensure that the competition proceeds as it is supposed to.  The others take various positions that more or less fall in line with one camp or the other.  For now, at least, the issue is moot.

Tony, who sided with Moose, claimed that if one of the others refused to snuff himself, then he, Tony, would eagerly take part in killing the man if that's what it took to earn his five million dollars.  Now his brave talk puts him in an awkward position, where he can't avoid eating this lethal fish that has been placed in front of him without losing a lot of face in front of the others, and so, with obvious reluctance, he bravely downs the whole thing in three big bites.

Poor Tony.  His last words in his exit interview were "I just hope it's quick, y'know?  Quick and not too painful".

It wasn't.

Again, the producers conceal more than they show, but what they show is enough.  Tony appears fine for a minute or so after eating the pufon'giyep.  Then he says that his tongue and lips are getting numb and tingly.  After that it's his throat.  Then it starts to spread throughout his body.  Within five minutes he's thrashing around, shouting that his arms and legs are on fire.  He splashes into the water at the ocean's edge looking for some relief, but finds none - apparently his skin has become extremely sensitive and the salt water stings like needles.  He stumbles back on shore then and collapses on the sand, screaming all the while.

The camera cuts away from Tony and instead shows the faces and reactions of the rest of the men.  Richard sits impassively, a stony expression on his face.  Moose is likewise unreactive, but unlike Richard, Moose seems to hardly notice the flailing and shouting - he's busy whittling a chunk of wood he found into a sharp point.  Lane is in empathic agony, desperately wanting to ease Tony's suffering but unable to think how.  Tyrell wants to get a couple of guys together and hold Tony's head under the water on the theory that drowning would be quicker and easier than what he's undergoing now, but Glenn argues against it, saying that death by drowning would be a far worse fate.  While they dicker, no decision is made, and by default Tony's suffering goes on.

They start to show only individual scenes to give the impression that time is passing.  Tony is never seen in close-up, but only as a distant shadow.  After an hour, he is no longer screaming but is still moaning and twitching on the sand where he fell.  After two hours, the sun has gone down and Tony's voluntary muscles have stopped responding to his brain, though his breathing and heartbeat are still chugging along.  The toxin is affecting them, so his breathing is labored, but Tony is strong guy and his body just won't give up.  There are long intervals between breaths.  The silences between them go on and on until the men camped on the beach think that Tony's agony must finally have ended, but then once again comes the great heaving rasp of yet another breath surging through Tony's torn-up throat and into his lungs.

It takes him three hours to finally breathe his last.  The episode ends with a shot of the campfire, burned down to ashes, fading to black.

 

Episode three is where things start to change.  When it begins, again the body has vanished, with not a word of explanation.  The remaining survivors have all been affected by what they saw happen to Tony.  Lane is overwhelmed and makes no secret of the fact that he wants out.  Richard, still stone-faced, has withdrawn even further into himself.  Hector tries half-heartedly to pull the others together, but he has neither the taste nor the talent for such a leadership role and his efforts come to nothing.  Only Moose, arrogant as ever, seems untouched by the specter of lingering, painful death, presumably because in his world, he is immortal and such things only happen to other people.

They spell out the third manner of death early on.  The week's loser will be taken to the north shore of the island and set adrift on an inflatable raft.  It's not much of a raft, more like one of those mattress-like things you see floating in swimming pools.  The victim will have rocks tied to his ankles and waist, about ten pounds' worth in total, and there will be several pinprick holes in the raft.  He will be set adrift off the northern shore, which is the side of the island that faces away from the coral atoll and toward the open ocean.  The constant trade winds will quickly seize the raft and blow it off to the west and south.  Air will steadily leak from the raft until it no longer can support the weight of the man aboard it.  He will sink into the sea, where the weights will ensure that he doesn't last very long in the water.

Another death we won't see close-up, you're thinking.  But it doesn't work out that way.  Fast-forward through most of the episode if you want, but make sure to stop at minute marks 11:25 and 18:15 and listen to the interviews they do with Glenn.  Turns out Glenn is absolutely terrified of drowning.  He tells us he would rather go through a week's worth of what Tony endured than even a few minutes of being pulled helplessly down into the dark depths of the sea, his lungs desperate for air but filling instead with burning seawater...

I'm sure you can guess where this is headed.  This is television, after all, and however unscripted the raw footage may be, someone had the job of editing it back at the studio into a 45-minute program and knew exactly which parts to keep in that would make the most compelling story.  Glenn, indeed, is the chosen victim for the week.

And here there is actually a tribal meeting worth watching.  Glenn refuses to go out on the raft.  The rest of the contestants don't know what to do.  They dicker with each other all that afternoon.  Moose wants to haul Glenn bodily out to the raft and force him onto it.  Gunner points out that once he's away from shore, there's nothing to stop him from immediately jumping off and swimming back - ten pounds of rocks aren't that heavy.  The only way to drown him is to actually hold him under.  That thought sets Glenn into a panic.  Lane suggests that Glenn might try to find some other way to kill himself.

On and on they argue until the sun sets.  By then it's too late for the raft - the winds have died down for the night... but have no fear, Peter Brockhart is here!  Brockhart manfully takes charge of the situation, dramatically informing the contestants that they have a desperate, last-chance, life-altering decision to make.  Their two choices are:

  • they can all give up and go home; or
  • they can all ensure that Glenn dies by dawn the next morning.

However, whichever way they choose, they have to all choose together.  There would be no splitting up, some bailing out while others plunge ahead.  Whatever they decide, it has to be all of them... though Glenn doesn't get a vote.  If they don't decide, then it becomes "go home" by default.

Once again I had to admire the producers' ingenuity - no one from the production crew was actually going to get their hands dirty!  No paid staff person would have to step in and drown a struggling man or compel anyone else to do it.  It would be the contestants who did the murdering.  All together!  Brilliant!

And this is where it gets interesting to watch, from a psychological perspective.  I find it fascinating to see the way these men talk themselves out of their former sense of morality (well, all except Moose who apparently never had one) and rationalizing why it would be perfectly OK to slaughter one of their fellows.  They start out split into three groups: Lane wants to cajole Glenn into suicide so the issue becomes moot; Moose wonders why there's even a discussion, he'd be happy to wring Glenn's scrawny neck right now.  Gunner, Moose's main rival, argues for going home, probably just because it's the opposite of what Moose wants; you get the sense that he still wants his shot at that five mil.  He shifts over to Lane's position as time goes on.

This discussion is where you get the first really overt clue - if you're watching for it - that Richard is not as dumb as he's been pretending to be.  As the night wears along, it is Richard who interjects the one comment here and there that persuades someone to change sides.  He makes it seem like he's in favor of going home without ever coming out and saying so, but then he subtly undercuts his own arguments.

If you're only watching superficially, he sounds like a total moron because he keeps sabotaging himself.  But he's no moron; he's a very deft manipulator.  By the time they reach a decision, Gunner has been convinced that it's possible to both hate Moose and agree with him at the same time.  Lane has been reassured that killing Glenn would actually be doing him a favor because it would save him from drowning.  And somehow, each of the others has been prodded into voting the exact opposite way from the position Richard implies that he holds!

They vote.  Richard, the last holdout, puts on a great show of reluctance but finally agrees with the majority.  They will kill Glenn before sunup.

Moose is ready to go take care of him right away.  But now Brockhart has a new condition.  "There's been a slight change to the rules," he says: they must all take part.  Each of the men must be physically involved or the contest is off.  More tribal meeting, this one not worth sitting through.  Fast-forward to the point where they decide how to do it: by knife.  Credit Richard, once again, for subtly leading them to the idea.

They only have three knives among the lot of them, part of the small allotment of tools they were allowed to bring with them to the island.  There are ropes, too, and this turns out to be fortunate because Glenn, who had convinced himself that they would all vote to go home and that he had therefore won a reprieve, wants no part of their plan.  Oh, is he ever surprised when they come for him.

This is the part that I got that VCR/Tivo alert for: they tie him up.  They position him standing between two trees with his arms stretched out to either side.  His shirt and pants are off - no sense getting blood on perfectly good clothing.  They tie his feet together so he can't kick.  He looks so...  goddam...  hot...  in the torchlight.  Sweat sheens his taut skin, there is panic in his eyes as he struggles with the unyielding ropes.  His muscles bunch and clench, his eyes roll wildly in his head... and finally they're showing it in close-up!  This is TV worth watching!

Here's where Richard's idea comes into play.  Each of the seven remaining men will take a turn with a knife.  Each will plunge it up to the hilt into a different area of Glenn's belly.  He will bleed to death from the wounds... but none of the men can be accused of having delivered a killing blow.  No single man has to bear the responsibility for Glenn's death.  They all share it equally.

Gunner goes first.  The camera takes up a position behind Glenn, so we don't get to see the action directly, but somehow it's even hotter from behind, seen only obliquely.  Gunner walks up to him, no expression at all on his face.  Stabbing a man has no more meaning for him than warming up a slice of pizza in a microwave.  Glenn is begging him not to, but Gunner doesn't hesitate.  In goes the knife.  Glenn tenses and shouts.  No blood is visible from our viewpoint, but you can see Glenn trying to curl up around the wound in his belly.

Next comes Hector.  He's more reluctant, but then seems to realize that Glenn is already in pain, and the longer he delays, the longer Glenn suffers.  Another thrust of the knife and Glenn starts screaming.

Richard is third.  He doesn't hesitate at all.  Then Lane, who is in tears but dutifully does his part, then Tyrell, then Moose.  Moose is vicious about it, not just plunging the knife in but twisting and slicing with it before he pulls it out.  Now we can see blood dripping down Glenn's legs and soaking his ragged underwear.  By the time Luis gets a turn, Glenn has stopped screaming.  He just doesn't have the strength to do more than moan.

It takes only a few minutes after Luis's final cut.  Glenn slumps in the ropes, his knees almost reaching the ground.  Blood pools on the sand beneath his body.  Minutes pass.  The survivors dicker a bit about whether he's really dead.  Moose makes sure by taking the knife and stabbing the body one more time: he is, indeed, dead.  Cue the credits.

I remember the storm of publicity when this hit the air.  There was talk of going in and "rescuing" the remaining men, but the studio pointed out that the men had just proved that they didn't want rescuing.  Then there was talk of stepping in to prevent future crimes from taking place, but the producers were ready for that, too.  They put up a huge stink in the courts of both the U.S. and Australia, the two countries that most seriously considered some sort of intervention.  They pointed out that neither nation had jurisdiction on Ake'epe.  In the end, there were calls for boycotts and much nattering about how our cultural's downward spiral had at least reached its lowest possible point... but the ratings shot through the roof!  I would say they were beyond the producers' dreams of avarice, but I suspect TV execs have pretty avaricious dreams.

 

Episode four features the drowning that didn't happen in episode three.  Tyrell gets the boot and finds himself staked down on his back on the sand, his head pointing toward the ocean.  At low tide.

They do it on the protected southwestern side of the island, the leeward side that faces the coral atoll where the waves are smallest.  The tide, when it comes in, does so gradually.  Slowly, over the course of three hours, the water gently rises.  The other six men, each of whom had helped to hammer the stakes into the sand and stretch Tyrell's limbs out and tie them to the stakes, watch from higher up the beach.  Once again, none of them is solely responsible for the death, and yet any of them could have stepped in and stopped it at any time.  None of them choose to.

The water touches the top of Tyrell's head, then his shoulders, then his waist.  It climbs up to his ears.  Tyrell had gone to this position not quite willingly, but not resisting, either.  He knows there's no way out and is determined to die well.  Unlike Glenn, he has no innate fear of drowning - to him, it's no better or worse than any other death.  As the water climbs up his cheeks and begins lapping at his lips, he looks stoic.  He lifts his head off the sand, buying a few more minutes while the water rises higher.  Because there are almost no waves, there is no oscillation of high and low water that would let him hold his breath during the high part of the cycle and gasp for air during the low.  The end, when it comes, will come all at once.

He holds his head up as long as he can, then, when even that is not high enough to keep his mouth and nose in the air, he lowers his head all the way.  The camera is not close enough to see for certain what is happening - all we see from the camera's position is Tyrell's dark face poking up out of the water and the small splashes that his movements produce.  But I can picture it in my mind all the same.  Tyrell had planned on letting out all his air, then sucking in a huge lungful of water in the hope of ending it quickly.  But when the moment comes, he can't do it.  The instinct for life is too strong.  When the first rush of warm, salty seawater hits the back of his throat, he can't help himself.  He coughs it out, then sucks in more.

Panic sets in - he is drowning!  He needs air!  He lunges for the surface, yanking hard on the ropes that hold him taut.  His splashing disturbs the still water enough that he can suck in a quick gasp, but it's not enough.  He needs more.

It makes me think when I'm watching Tyrell's death how different it was from the earlier guys.  Drowning really is a silent killer.  With Tony and Glenn we saw and heard the suffering, but here this man is one inch away from life, fighting for his survival with all his strength, and it's hardly noticeable.  Beneath the surface of the water Tyrell is in total panic and yet all that is visible from above are tiny ripples.

For the moment, at least.  As he pulls and thrashes, the stake holding his left hand yields a bit, giving him a bit of slack that lets him stretch his head up just enough.  All thought of going nobly into that dark night is gone - he wants out.  He thrashes some more.  When he pulls particularly hard with his left arm, the stake moves visibly.  It's still buried in the sand, but it is now tilted several inches toward Tyrell.  Now he can breathe easily again, at least for the moment.  His panic subsides, he coughs out the swallowed seawater and begins to really work at getting himself free.

"Damn!" yells Gunner, seeing what is happening.  He and Luis run down to the shore, followed closely by Moose.  Richard, Hector, and Lane walk along, much less certainly.

"C'mon!" Gunner says.  "It's gotta be all of us."  And so three of them stand on the three sturdy stakes while the other three duly work at hammering the fourth one back down into the soggy sand.  "No, no, no!" Tyrell shouts.  He pleads with them to let him go, but his pleadings are quickly cut off as the slack disappears from his limbs and his head is pulled under the water again.  He has a full lungful of air that he manages to hold onto for almost a whole minute before his body finally betrays him and compels him to try to breathe.

Bubbles.

Thrashing convulsions.

Futile, pathetic little splashes.

Stillness.

 

Episode five begins with some interpersonal drama.  There has been plenty of that all along, of course, but I always fast-forward through it.  This one interests me, though.  Moose has discovered that Richard is gay and is making much of the fact.  Richard is annoyed by his attentions.  The others don't seem to be bothered much about the gay issue, but they're not inclined to step in to try to stop Moose from harassing Richard.  Luis puts it best.  He says that Moose is the kind who will always be picking on someone, and if it's Richard then at least it's not him.  Even Lane - good ol' Lane, who would ordinarily try to be the mediator and keep the peace - stays out of it.  Perhaps even he has learned that there's just no reasoning with Moose.  The teasing is constant, punctuated by intermittent physical pranks.

A particularly dramatic point comes when the tribe is building some kind of shelter for a storm that's been forecast to blow in.  They're cutting down trees and building a structure with a roof.  So far they've been sleeping out under the stars, but I guess this storm is supposed to be a big one and no one wants to get soaked.  The producers of this series have always been great, if somewhat ham-handed, at setting up this sort of internal-motivation conflict: they're all in competition with one another, but they're given assignments where they've got to cooperate.  Tension predictably ensues.  Alliances are formed.  Trusts are betrayed.  Viewing interest is piqued... advertising dollars pour in.

So they're working on their shelter.  Peter Brockhart is majestically surveying the scene from his lofty perch.  Richard is holding up a heavy roof beam waiting for Luis and Gunner to get a support post under it when Moose walks by and gooses Richard from behind, hollering "woo hoo hoo hoo!" as he does.  Richard drops the roof beam, which thunks into two other posts that have already been set up and causing the whole structure so far to come collapsing down.

Richard is furious.  "What the <bleep> was that for?" he shouts.  This is one of my favorite scenes because it so beautifully sums up the insanity of the whole thing.  This is a show that is willing to show premeditated murder, but they bleep out cuss words?

Anyway, Moose chuckles back in reply "I thought you liked it up the ass!"  Richard seethes, but he knows Moose is bigger than him.  If they were to get into a fight, none of the others would intervene, not even Lord Brockhart, unless of course there seemed to be a risk of a premature execution.  Wouldn't want that to happen - it might mess up the scheduling!  So Richard sucks it up.  His frustration and fury are written all over his face.  The others don't help - they're annoyed about the lost work and they complain to Moose about it, but he deflects the blame to Richard: "How was I supposed to know he'd be too weak to keep his grip on the beam?"

In the end, the plans for the shelter get scaled back considerably.  When the storm comes, they can all fit under the roof, but just barely.  Space is tight.  Moose, of course, manages to take all he needs, leaving the others - Lane and Hector and Richard, in particular - to spend a very uncomfortable several hours in very close quarters.  The camera crew is obviously there during the storm because they've filmed the interior of the flimsy shelter, but there's no sign of Peter Brockhart.  They probably evacuated him to Guam to ride it out in comfort there.

After the storm, Richard and Gunner make no secret of the fact that they want Moose gone.  Unfortunately, Moose brings in the biggest fish and therefore wins immunity for the week.  (Actually, his fish is only the second largest, but Hector didn't touch all the buoys during the race and therefore had 30 seconds added to his time, which meant... oh, screw it.  If you care about those kinds of details, watch the show.)

So Moose can't be voted off.  (Such an apt euphemism!  I can almost stand listening to Peter Brockhart's whiny, nasal voice when he oh-so-smarmily says "voted off the island" knowing that "off" here is really more a verb than a preposition.)  I figured at this point that the likeliest ultimate winners were the two strongest men, Moose and Gunner.  I would have expected them to vote Gunner off since Moose was immune, but that's not how it turned out.  Perhaps the others thought that they needed Gunner around because he was the only one physically powerful enough to threaten Moose, and if he was gone, Moose would have free rein.

In a vote that surprises even the contestants, they select Luis instead.  It's surprising because he's well-liked by the others.  He's an affable, helpful guy who has done more than his share of the tribe's work.  This seems to have had an unintended side effect for him.  Perhaps because he was perceived as being well-liked, the others thought no one would vote for him and thus he would become a strong contender to win at the end.  The others (except Moose, of course) all express what seem to be genuine regrets at choosing him.  It seems every one of them was of the opinion that they wanted to win, but Luis should come in second.  Luis accepts this graciously.

And now Brockhart steps in with a new wrinkle, which he had promised he would earlier in the episode but left the details deliberately vague so as to further increase the artificial sense of drama.  "There's been another slight change to the rules," he snivels.  The twist is this: the winner of this week's immunity challenge gets to choose the manner of execution.  Some suggestions are offered, but Moose is free to come up with his own idea if he wants.

He does.  It is, not surprisingly, quite a sadistic one.

This angers the rest of the group, who wanted to give Luis an easy exit.  But Brockhart (perhaps at the urging of the producers, hungry to top last week's ratings) insists that Moose gets the final say.  The others stand down, grumbling.

Moose's idea is to have a hunt.  The quarry - Luis - will be set free to run around the island and given a ten minute head start.  Then the hunter - Moose - will come after him.  Each will have one of the three available knives.  To make it more "fair", in the twisted sense that the outcome of the hunt should be pre-ordained and the quarry should have zero chance of overcoming the hunter, Luis will be blinded before he is set free.

Not blindfolded.  Blinded.

Once again, they show only a little of it.  Luis is tied down lying on his back.  Moose looms over him with the knife in his hand.  He is clearly relishing this.  All his life, it seems, he has been waiting for an opportunity like this one, a chance to hurt someone without having to worry about getting caught.  Here, now, it's not only OK to torture someone just for the hell of it, it's practically expected of him.  He is in his element.

But, totally lacking subtlety, Moose rushes through his big moment all too quickly.  He could have drawn it out for hours, milking poor Luis of his pain and fear.  He could have lingered lovingly with the knife, pushing and poking at the fragile orbs, perhaps making tiny slices here and there before finally finishing the job.  Instead, it's wham-bam, too-bad, man.  Luis is turned loose, moaning and groaning.  There's blood, but not too much - Moose punctured the eyeballs and drained them of fluid, but, showing a rare touch of self-restraint, didn't muck around carelessly with his blade.

Moose spins Luis around a few times and ends with him facing toward the interior of the island.  He slaps a knife into Luis's hand - the same knife that just destroyed his sight - and gives him a kick to get him moving.  Luis sprawls forward but catches himself before he hits the sand.  He stumbles ahead and feels his way through into where the trees begin.  We lose sight of him.

I think if it were me, I would refuse to play Moose's game.  I would just stay there and deprive him of the delight he is anticipating.  But maybe I'm just imagining I'd have the strength to sit there and wait for the psycho who had just gouged out my eyes to come finish the job he'd started.  Maybe I would do what Luis did and run, grasping for that infinitesimal chance that I might somehow find an escape against completely hopeless odds.

The camera work gets kind of wobbly once the ten minutes are up and Moose starts the chase.  This part he doesn't rush.  The island is not large; there is nowhere for Luis to go.  As hunts go, it's like stalking a deer that's been tethered to a bright orange post.

Moose calls out in a frightening sing-song voice as he strides through the brush.  "Yoo-hoo!  Lu-eeeeeee-eeees!  I'm coming for you!  Come out, come out, wherever you aaaaaarrrrre!"  He has his knife in one hand and a thick stick in the other.  As he passes palm trees, he sometimes whacks the trunks with the stick, making a thunking noise that he probably intends to sound loud and ominous, but that gets lost in the rustling of the surf and the wind.

The chase scene only lasts three minutes.  Maybe it took longer in real life and they edited it down.  Moose catches up with Luis, who has scrabbled up a tree and is waiting in what he hopes is a concealing cluster of green branches.  It's not bad camouflage, but it's not enough to totally hide him.  He's safer than he realizes, though, because Moose is incapable of climbing trees - he's strong, but heavy.  Luis is up high enough to be out of the reach of his would-be killer.

So Moose tries to get him down.  He shakes the trunk - no good.  He throws things at Luis - his stick, chunks of coral.  Luis, battered, grimly hangs on to his perch.

Finally Moose gets a brainstorm - he can tie his knife to the stick!  He goes back to camp for some rope.  The others are gathered around Luis's spot watching the proceedings.  Gunner and Lane argue over whether they should offer to snuff Luis now and save him from Moose.  Lane - naive Lane! - believes that wouldn't be fair; it's important to play by the rules.  He doesn't seem to realize that the only rule here is "maximize profit for Survivor producers" and that those producers will change any of the other, lesser rules in a heartbeat any time they decide to.  Gunner eventually does make the offer, but he's too late - Moose is returning.  Luis doesn't get a chance to answer.

Moose now has his knife tied to the end of the stick and can almost reach Luis.  He uses his home-made spear to slash at Luis's feet and ankles.  Blood drips down the trunk of the tree.  At one point, he gets a lucky shot in and slashes right through the Achilles tendon of Luis's left foot.  Luis can no longer use that foot to help him maintain his balance in the tree.  Moose slashes some more.  Luis's right foot slips and his body drops down six inches or so.  Now Moose can reach more of his leg, and he hacks away with glee.  "Oh, yeah, baby, come and take your medicine!"

Eventually Luis either loses enough blood to weaken him or just plain gives up.  His fingers relax their grip on the trunk and he falls out of the tree.  Moose is on him with a roar.  "Got you now, you son of a bitch!"  The knife flashes, but Luis has one trick left up his sleeve.  His own knife had been tucked into his waistband, and even as Moose goes at him he pulls the knife out and makes one powerful wild slice that catches Moose across the cheek.  Blood sprays.  Moose, enraged, kicks Luis's knife out of his hand and ends it with a thrust to his neck.  Luis's last few breaths bubble out through a hole in his throat.

 

At the start of episode six, it becomes immediately clear that the main thing that comes out of episode five is that the rest of the group is now firmly united against Moose.  Moose, who now has an ugly, partly-healed scar running across the right side of his face, wants to take out Gunner, who he perceives to be his biggest threat.  Episode six opens with the understanding that Moose needs to win every immunity challenge from here on out or the rest of the group will unite in taking him down.  Again Brockhart hints that there will be a surprise in the works later on, but does not divulge any details.

It is clear that the pressures are wearing on the survivors.  The number of men has been whittled down by half, and the remaining contestants are exhausted, stressed, hungry, and constantly on edge.  Hector expresses the fear that Moose will actually kill them all just for the fun of it, and to hell with the five million dollars.  Hector is still "in it to win it", he says, but it's clear that five weeks of roughing it have taken their toll on him, indeed on all of them.  All except Peter Brockhart, of course, who still has his blow-dried good looks and squintingly-intense air of faux concern.

Lane, in particular, has been beaten down.  He is no longer the happy camper he was in the beginning.  Now he looks like a sad puppy.  I pegged him to be the next to go when I first watched the episode.  I was, once again, wrong.

Moose has also lost some of his playful edge.  Where in the past he would take delight in teasing and harassing the others, now he is just grouchy.  His anti-gay remarks toward Richard are sullen insults: "<bleep>ing faggot", "cock-sucking fairy", etc.  He seems to erupt in volcanic rages very often, but maybe that's just the editors picking out the high points.

They all knew they were nearing the end, one way or another.  There were only two weeks left to go.  If the show had proceeded as the producers had intended, there were supposed to be two more deaths - this week and next week - before the final showdown with the three remaining finalists.  They had the final showdown, all right, but not as originally planned.

I find I don't fast-forward through this one.  I'm not sure why - it contains a lot of the same artificial drama-building and pointless challenges that fill the rest of the episodes.  Somehow, though, the drama feels less artificial here.  The emotions seem more genuine, as though the weeks on the island have sheared away the veneer that the contestants had tried to cover their true selves with, revealing who they really are.  Despite the editors' best attempts to script the characters and show us only what they want us to see, the real men beneath come through, and they are surprisingly good-hearted men.  Four of them, at least.

I like to watch the interplay between Gunner and Hector, who have become close friends.  It's touching to see how in this "Lord of the Flies" world the producers have created, the contestants can somehow find room for common decency.  Richard and Lane, too, seem to be constantly in each other's company.  Moose of course notices this and includes Lane in his homophobic rants.  Moose, alone, is friendless, which he can hardly consider surprising.

But enough - maybe you'll find episode six as interesting as I do, or maybe not.  In any case, the winner of the episode six immunity challenge is once again Moose.  He's looking more and more like an unstoppable force.  He sits smugly in the much-shrunken torchlit circle where they hold their "tribal councils", quite satisfied in the knowledge that he is safe for at least another week.  The rest of them fidget uncomfortably while they wait for Brockhart to orchestrate the vote.

Then Brockhart steps in with his extra wrinkle.  "There's been another slight change to the rules," he simpers.  This time, he announces, there will be no vote.  The winner of the immunity challenge not only gets to choose the manner of death, he also gets to choose the next victim.

A slow smile creeps across Moose's face as he realizes what a gift he has been handed.  He stands up and struts around the sandy campsite, letting his fingers trail across the shoulders of the four seated men.

"Oh, man, who's it gonna be?" he cackles.  "Maybe you?"  He grabs Lane by the shoulders and shakes him.  Lane angrily shrugs Moose's hands off.  "Or maybe your lover boy, here?"  He taps Richard with his toe.  Richard doesn't react, sitting with his usual stony expression.

"Too tough, too tough to decide!" Moose crows.  He decides to think about the manner of execution instead.  What he comes up with is more inventive than I would have given him credit for - he strikes me as the kind of guy who understands guns and knives and that's about it.  His decision was that the chosen victim - whoever it might turn out to be - would be stretched out on his back and tied down, spread-eagle.  Then the other four would lay one of their two wooden rafts (built as part of an earlier challenge) over him and spend the night on it.  The victim would be slowly crushed to death during a long, drawn-out struggle for air.

Then he announces that the victim will be Gunner.  This doesn't surprise anyone, despite Moose's pretense of not knowing who he would pick.  "I always said I would squash you like a bug," Moose crows to Gunner.  "And today's the day!"

Lane immediately objects, saying that he will be no part of it.  Hector agrees, though not as fervently as Lane.  Discussion ensues over whether Moose has the authority to make the others take part.  No resolution is reached, but something happens that we don't get to see.  The editing seems smooth, but suddenly we're seeing the setup of the execution and all the remaining survivors are taking part.  Something must have happened in that missing slice of time that made them change their minds.  My guess is that it's that same unseen, off-camera threat that Richard alluded to in episode two.

Gunner has already been staked down.  He would most definitely not go willingly; the other's wouldn't have helped, and I can't imagine Moose would have been able to lay him out and attach the ropes by himself.  Yet there he lies, having gotten there... somehow.  The details are left unspecified while they show the others gathering the raft.  They position it so that one edge is propped up off the sand by a structure of logs.  The other edge is laid down gently on Gunner's barrel-shaped chest.

Moose grabs his bedroll and climbs on board the raft.  Gunner's breathing begins to labor, but though he is in some discomfort, Moose's weight alone is not enough to be life-threatening.  Moose makes sure to move around as much as possible while he lays out his bedroll and arranges it comfortably.  Richard, with obvious reluctance, climbs on board as well and lies down.  Lane and Hector dither longer, making excuses about last-minute latrine trips and the need to eat or drink or wash, but eventually, they too are on the raft and Gunner has to really struggle to get air into his lungs.

For a long time - the exact duration is unclear - Moose is positioned as nearly directly over Gunner as possible, while the others cluster at the other side, the side that's held up by the logs, thinking perhaps that this will make Gunner's torment a tiny bit easier to bear.  We can hear Gunner gasping in the darkness, moaning too when he can spare the strength.  Moose makes sure to toss and turn frequently, bouncing on the uncomfortable wooden mattress - it's clear that none of the men are actually sleeping.

At last Hector makes the observation that they're not doing Gunner any favors by keeping their weight off him, that it would be kinder if they would all bunch up where Moose is and try to end it more quickly.  They shift their positions, and now Gunner is truly in agony with the weight of four men plus a wooden raft pressing down on his chest.  He grunts involuntarily as the last air in his lungs is squeezed out.  He knows that the only way out is to stop breathing, but his body won't let him.  His exhausted muscles just can't stop trying to lift the crushing weight.  All he can focus on is his desperate hunger for air.

It takes at least half an hour more.  Just like with Tony in episode two, every time we think it's finally over for Gunner, his body summons up another surge of strength and he takes in a breath, holding it for a second or two before yielding to the pressure and expelling it again, giving his body just enough more strength to go through the cycle again.

Episode six ends with the camera fading to black to the sound of one of Gunner's breaths squeezing in and out.

 

Episode seven... ah, what can I say about this one?  If you've stuck with the series this long, hoping for a good payout at the end, this - the last "official" entry in the series - is where it finally delivers, although what it provides, hot as it is, is peanuts compared with number eight.

The remaining contestants are at war.  You would think it would be every man for himself at this point, but Moose is such a dominant personality that the other three have banded together against him and make no secret of the fact.  Every taunt Moose offers, every insult he spews is met with "that's right, say it now while you can, because in one week (five days, three days, etc.), you're going down."

The immunity challenge is actually an exciting spectacle for once, but maybe that's only because I know how it turns out and I like to watch the plot develop.  They're using the rafts to dive for food supplies that have been strewn along the bottom of the reef fifteen or so feet deep.  It's a job that requires two men.  The food is in large crates that are too unwieldy for one man alone to muscle up off the seafloor and onto the raft to float back to shore.

And so the men have been divided into two teams: Richard and Lane against Moose and Hector.  Each team is assigned to one crate, and they get to eat whatever they bring up.  We're shown what's in the crates before they're taken out and sunk, and it's good stuff, food from civilization, packed nicely in cans and waterproof bags.  It'll be a welcome calorie boost for the constantly-undernourished men.  The team that comes back first gets a shot at the week's immunity position.

The two teams float their rafts out to the spot on the reef where buoys mark the sunken treasures.  Richard and Lane anchor their raft so it won't float away and begin to dive.  The camera guys follow them underwater.  It's a tough job - the crate is heavy and two men can barely move it.  They try a few times but don't make much progress.

Over at the other raft, Hector is having a problem.  He slips off the raft and bumps his head on some coral.  There's just a small lump, no blood, but Hector claims to be feeling dizzy.  He tells Moose he just needs a few minutes to lie down on the raft.  Moose dives down and tries to manhandle the crate to the surface by himself.  He can't.  He's big and strong, but the crate is too big to get a firm grip on.  He could probably manage the weight himself if he could just find a way to hold on to the darn thing.

Back with Richard and Lane, they've succeeded in getting it off the seafloor.  They manage to bring it up about a foot but Lane loses his grip and it crashes back down in slow motion.  They retreat to the surface for air.

Hector says he's feeling recovered.  He splashes into the water and dives down.  But what's this?  He can't see well under the water and goes to the wrong spot.  He fumbles around while Moose tries to direct his attention to the right place.  Hector runs out of air and retreats to the surface, where he spends a lot of time taking deep breaths.

Richard has had an idea.  He swims back to the shore and brings some of the ropes out.  Working carefully, he and Lane wrap some ropes around the crate and tie them in place.  Now their crate has handles they can use.  More ropes go around the handles and lead up to the raft.  They begin to hoist the crate up, working from the surface instead of deep down.

Moose sees they are making progress and becomes tense.  He shouts at Hector to get back underwater and help him.  They dive.  This time Hector finds the crate.  He and Moose start lifting.  They get it halfway to the surface when Hector's grip fails.  Moose tries to keep hold of it by himself, but can't.  The crate tumbles back down to the seafloor.  At the surface, Moose is livid.  They dive down and try again.  This time they get the crate all the way to the surface, climbing up the coral (and probably causing all kinds of damage to it as they go).  Getting it out of the water and onto the raft, though, turns out to be a very difficult challenge.  From their positions in the water, they just can't get enough leverage to lift.  Mid-attempt, they once again lose their grips and the crate sinks down again.

Moose is beside himself with rage.  He sees that Richard and Lane are already steadily working their way back to the island.  They have not bothered to try to lift their crate out of the water, but instead are holding it suspended under the raft.  Moose realizes how they are doing it and bellows to Hector to go to the island and get some ropes.  Hector looks him smoothly in the eye and says "yeah, sure".  He lazily swims back to shore while Moose once again tries futilely to lift the crate by himself.

He tries again and again, making no more progress than he did before and growing increasingly angry.  By the time Moose thinks to wonder why Hector hasn't returned with the ropes, the contest is already lost: Richard and Lane are back at the island with their prize.  They sit on the crate and watch Moose's raft out among the coral, where Moose's head occasionally pokes up out of the water.  At last he looks over their way to see not two but three men sitting on the crate watching him.  Hector is not fetching rope, he's sitting on the crate with the other two!  Moose is probably to far away to see it, but the camera shows us viewers a sly smile on Hector's face.

Moose is livid.  There is no way he can lift the crate unaided, and clearly Hector is not going to help out.  Moose swims back to the island ready to bust some heads.  Peter Brockhart steps in and stops him (once again with the implied off-camera threat of some sort of force - how else could a willow tree like Brockhart stand up to a tornado like Moose?)

Richard and Lane open their crate of food supplies.  They ravenously devour beef jerky, Gatorade, canned peaches, cheese.  It's a feast the likes of which they haven't seen in six weeks.  And they share their bounty with Hector, of course.  Moose wants some, but will not stoop to asking, especially since he knows what the answer will be.  We see him considering raiding the cache, but he decides not to.  Again the implied threat of force.

The immunity challenge continues.  It's dumb and the outcome doesn't really matter since it's between Richard and Lane and they're on the same side.  Fast-forward; Richard wins.

Moose knows this is not good.  He spends the afternoon sulking on the far end of the island.  But he is compelled to return for the "tribal council".  Richard asks Brockhart if there will be any "slight rule changes" this time.  Brockhart says there aren't.  Richard asks if, as the immunity challenge winner, he is entitled, as Moose was last week, to choose both the victim and the manner of death.  Brockhart says he is.

"That's great," says Richard.  "And Moose, I won't keep you in suspense.  Tonight's victim is you."

"<bleep> you, you <bleep>ing cocksucker," Moose snarls.

"Funny you should mention that," Richard says.  "Because you are going to die by choking on my dick."

I said episode seven would deliver, didn't I?

"No way.  No <bleep>in' way," Moose spits.  "That is not gonna happen."

But it does.  I wish we could see more of how they subdue Moose and get him into position for the execution scene - I love watching a powerful male get taken down and rendered helpless.  But they don't show it, probably because it would mean making the as-yet-unseen enforcers visible and they don't want to break the illusion that they don't exist, however implausible that illusion might be at this point.  So after Moose stomps out of the circle of torches, they fade out for a commercial break.  When they return, Moose is already tied up.

He is wearing only his ratty shorts, no shirt.  His arms have been bound behind him, ropes wrapped around his wrists attaching each to the opposite elbow so that his forearms are held parallel to the ground.  He can sort of move them from side to side, but not enough to do anything useful with his hands.  His ankles have been lashed together with a short length of rope between them so he can walk, but only haltingly.

There is a ring gag in his mouth.  It would strain credibility to think that they would have actually thought in advance to ship a ring gag across the Pacific Ocean, but on closer look (at minute mark 34:26 they zoom in real close on his face) you can see that it's an improvised thing.  Perhaps they got the metal part from some of the camera equipment or elsewhere among the support crew's supplies.  The ring has been wedged into Moose's mouth and is held in place by a rope tied tightly around the back of his head.  It sometimes slips loose when he strains his mouth open even wider than the ring requires, but the taut rope only pulls the ring further back into Moose's mouth.  He can force it forward with his tongue until it's back in its original position, but he can't spit it out or get it to lie flat.  His mouth is open and there's nothing he can do about it.

Richard steps up to him.  Moose stares down, defiant.  Richard reaches out and caresses one of Moose's nipples.  Moose angrily shrugs him away.  Richard smiles slowly.  He pulls up the now-empty food crate and sits down in it.  "On your knees," he commands quietly.

Moose refuses.  Hector and Lane come up on either side of him.  They move tentatively, as if they are not quite convinced that the rabid beast has been rendered sufficiently helpless.  Hesitantly they reach out and grasp him by the upper arms.  He twists and turns, but they are able to hold him.  Moose tries to lash out with his feet; the rope prevents him from doing any damage.  More confidently now, Hector and Lane try to push Moose down onto his knees.  He fights them.

I always have a raging hard-on by this point.  I'm sure Richard did, too.

Lane kicks the back of Moose's legs.  His knees buckle and he drops.  Richard reaches forward and grabs him by the ears and pulls his cocoa-colored head forward.

"It's a shame you won't be able to give my dick the attention it deserves," he says, his voice cold and deadly.  "With your mouth locked open like that, you won't be able to seal your lips around the shaft and bathe it with your tongue.  But that's OK.  Because this isn't about sex.  Don't get me wrong - I'll thoroughly enjoy this, and I'll eventually come.  But it'll take a long while to get enough stimulation when the only way to get it is to bury my dick so deeply in your throat that it totally blocks your breathing.

"See, I don't want it to be over too quickly.  I want to make this last.  I've put up with your <bleep> for six weeks now, and the only thing that made it bearable toward the end was knowing that at some point, I would have you in exactly this position.  So I'm not going to rush it.  I'm going to savor every second."

With that, he slid his shorts aside.  We don't get to see anything good, of course.  "Sure," I can hear the producers saying.  "We'll show all the violent death you want, but an erect penis?  Are you mad?"  Even so, there's no mistaking what happens.  Richard pulls Moose's head down toward his lap.  Moose can't stop anything from entering his stretched-open mouth, so Richard's just-out-of-view, presumably rock-hard cock slides in unobstructed.  It goes in all the way to the back of Moose's throat, and then Richard pulls him down even further.  Moose begins to make gagging sounds, but he doesn't lose control.

Richard holds him there for a long minute.  The whole time, there are no breathing noises from Moose.  Air can't get past the cockhead lodged at the back of his mouth.  He struggles to pull free, but can't.  With Hector and Lane holding his body firmly and Richard's fingers clamped on his ears, he can't move away.  His struggles become more and more frantic until at last Richard lets him up and the air starts flowing again.  Richard gives him just enough time for three deep breaths, then forces him back down again.

This goes on for a long, long time.  I don't know how long because the camera keeps cutting away.  It's frustrating how little they show.  We see a lot of Moose squirming and fighting, a lot of Richard's and Hector's and Lane's faces, but no actual dick-in-mouth.  It's OK, though - the knowledge that this really happened still makes it powerfully erotic, for me at least.  At one point, Moose loses control of his gag reflex and hurls his last meal all over Richard's lap.  This doesn't faze Richard in the slightest.  He just gives Moose a few extra seconds to finish draining the contents of his stomach, then rams his mouth down into the slop.  Moose squirms even harder.  His fingers clench and his legs spasm, but he can't lift his head enough to free his airway.

Eventually it becomes clear that Richard is getting close.  The camera starts to spend less time on him (man, I would have edited this scene SO differently!) and more on Hector and Lane.  Hector is looking kind of queasy - he's doing this because it needs to be done, but he's not enjoying it in the visceral way Richard is.  Lane doesn't seem to mind it at all.  Brockhart is nowhere to be seen.

The coup de grace starts at minute 43:08.  Richard mutters "It's time, asshole," (and they don't bleep him!).  Moose is exhausted.  He is desperate for air, but he gets only a quick second to breathe before Richard shoves him down hard.  Richard pumps his hips a bit.  We know his dick is buried deep in Moose's throat, even though we can't see it.  Moose's spasms intensify briefly, then subside.  It's hard to tell when the actual moment of no return is reached, but it's probably right around the same time that Richard lets out a series of grunts.  Moose's last sensation is probably the feeling of Richard's hot, wet sperm squirting down his plugged-up throat.  What a way for a confirmed homophobe like him to make his exit...

Richard shudders and quakes but doesn't let go of Moose's head.  He stays there, eyes shut, for at least two minutes after Moose has stopped moving.  Making sure, I guess.  Finally he releases his grip on Moose's ears.  Moose tips to the side and thuds onto the sand where his body lies still.  I always imagine being close enough to see a trickle of white slime oozing out from his stretched-open mouth, but of course the editor would never leave an image like that in.  Richard stands up, his murder weapon discreetly concealed off the bottom of the frame.

The episode ends with Brockhart reconvening the tribal meeting to inform the three survivors how the next week's show would go.  It's kind of tedious, but entertaining to watch for the sheer irony of it.  Because, of course, things don't turn out at all the way Brockhart says they will.

 

OK, now I have to interrupt the tale for a little background.  Up until now, everything I've told you has been nothing you couldn't have found for yourself.  Episodes one through seven were aired publicly (though only on pay stations).  Anyone could have recorded them, copied them, streamed them, burned them to discs, whatever.  That's how I got my copies of episodes one and two - ordering them online.  I made my own recordings starting at episode three.

But episode eight is different.  It never aired.  The network just said that there were production difficulties and so they had to postpone the final installment.  As weeks went by with no word and postponement silently turned to cancellation, there were questions, but the producers stonewalled.  As far as the world at large knows, the last three survivors - Richard, Lane, and Hector - are still hanging out with Brockhart on Ake'epe, alive and well with no victor declared to claim the five million dollars.

A select few of us know differently.

I don't know where my source got his copy of the disc from.  For all I know, he could be the guy who did the editing job.  Or he could be a third cousin of the boyfriend of the sister of the editor.  However it came to be, I have no doubt it is genuine.

The editing work is completely different from any of the preceding episodes.  Whoever created it did the job the way I would have done it.  Instead of glossing over the rough stuff, he glories in it.  Nothing is bleeped out, nothing is artfully concealed from view.  It's all there for your viewing pleasure.  And instead of a mere 45 minutes (60 minus time for commercials), it runs nearly three hours.  Episode eight is the one that truly lives up to the series' name: The Real Thing.

It starts much like all of the others, with the same contrived sense of melodrama.  Peter Brockhart, his windblown hair ruffling perfectly in the ocean breeze, declares that they have reached the finale and offers congratulations all around.  With great fanfare, he produces a treasure chest.  He opens it up to reveal stacks and stacks of hundred-dollar bills.  He picks a stack out and passes it around.  The three survivors hold it, riffle through it, return it to Brockhart, who locks the chest up again.  He runs boringly through how the scenario will play out.

The three of them will undertake one final competition, winner take all, losers... well, the losers lose all.  Brockhart explains in comprehensive detail the specifics of how it will go.

Lane keeps squirming throughout the explanation.  He acts as though something is biting him on the ass where he sits.  A few times he yelps out loud.  Brockhart tries to ignore the interruptions but at one point Lane jumps to his feet and Brockhart is forced to stop his oration.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" Lane demands of Hector.

Hector shrugs his shoulders with a puzzled expression on his face.  "What are you talking about?" he replies.

"Don't play dumb with me, asshole.  Quit pinching my ass!"

"I ain't pinching your ass, ya dope."

"Yes, you are, you liar.  Knock it off!"

"You call me a liar?  I'll let you get away with that once, but it ain't gonna happen again."

Lane leans down and looks him square in the face.  "Liar," he says.

Hector jumps to his feet and goes after Lane.  Richard stands up too and starts calling at them to stop.  Hector and Lane begin grappling.  A torch is knocked over (no big deal - it's morning and the flames aren't lit).  Brockhart skitters out of the way.  Hector and Lane dive to the ground, punching at each other, grabbing at each other's wrists and faces.

"Knock it off!" Richard shouts.  He looks as if he wants to move in and break them up, but it's too risky to get in among the flying fists.  Brockhart backs away, stepping as primly as possible across the sand.

Hector and Lane roll across the clearing.  They come right up against a pair of legs clad in camouflage pants.  The camera pans up to reveal a face we haven't ever seen before: a tall, thick black man with an amused smile on his face as he watches the wrestling contestants.  He is holding a gun.  I don't know much about firearms, but it looks like one of those kind that can shoot a lot of bullets all at once.

We have found the "unseen force" from the previous episodes.  This was how the unwilling contestants got placed into situations they would not have otherwise gone to.  The gun is scary enough, but even without that threat, the guy's musclepower alone would be enough to take on Moose.

Hector is straddling Lane, his hands on his neck.  Lane is flat on his back trying to get Hector's hands off, then suddenly, in one swift, fluid movement, they roll to Lane's left.  Hector's back hits the ground and his right foot continues its motion and plants a solid kick...

... right in the guard's crotch.

The guard buckles.  Lane smoothly stands up, relieves the guard of his rifle, takes aim at a spot across the clearing, and fires.  The camera spins to see what he has shot at.  The scene is a blur, but if you replay it in slow motion you can catch a glimpse of a second guard falling backward.  In three long strides, Richard covers the distance between where he was standing and where the second guard went down.  He relieves the fallen guard of his weapon and turns to face the camera.  There is a second gunshot - we don't see it, but Lane has taken out the guard who got kicked in the nuts.  Apparently there were just the two.

Richard walks over to where Brockhart has taken refuge.  The camera follows him.  Gripping the gun easily, he stares Brockhart in the face.  Brockhart has a blank look on his face, like he sees what is happening and understands the implications, but just can't bring himself to admit it's real.

"There's been a slight change to the rules," Richard growls.

It's my favorite line of the whole series.

Richard turns to face the camera.  He talks over the camera to the man controlling it.  "I want you to keep this camera rolling," he says.  "No matter what happens, this camera stays on and that feed keeps streaming to the studio.  Got it?"  There's no audible response; maybe the worried cameraman just nodded.

There's a bit of organizational stuff that happens next - the editor left in just enough that we can learn what happens without bogging us down in the details.  It turns out that there are a total of seven men left alive on the island - Richard, Hector, Lane, Brockhart, two camera guys, and a general support guy who cooks and does a lot of the general labor.  One of the camera guys is instructed to teach Hector how his hardware works.

When that's done, the two cameramen and the cook are told to take one of the rafts to the northwest corner of the island.  There they will climb on board and push off.  The wind and current will take them off at a predictable speed and direction.  They will have a large orange-blazed cloth with them to make them easily visible from the air.

Richard looks into the lens.  "Got that, HQ?  They'll be shoving off in about ten minutes.  Go pick 'em up."

There is no doubt at this point that Richard is firmly in charge, that his I'm-a-dope routine from the earlier episodes was just an act.  He's a very smart cookie and clearly has planned out this operation very thoroughly.

Lane heads off to supervise the departing crew.  Hector takes over manning the camera.  He aims it at Richard and Brockhart, who is actually shivering, he's so scared.

"This way."  Richard jerks the gun toward the beach, to the platform that Brockhart spent so much time gazing thoughtfully off from.  Brockhart stumbles forward, Richard following along behind, the gun swinging easily from his hand.  Hector, holding the camera, brings up the rear.  He does a surprisingly good job of keeping it steady while he walks.

They stop at the other raft.  Hector sets the camera stand down and comes to help Richard.  Brockhart keeps whimpering: "What are you going to do?  Come on, guys, we can work something out.  I bet we can make it so you each get your own five million.  Please?  What are you doing?"  It didn't take him long to go from smug announcer to whipped pussy.  He didn't even go through a threatening phase - "You'll never get the money if you keep this up!" - but just dropped straight to groveling.

The raft has been propped up so that it forms a table-like surface at about knee height.  Richard and Hector force Brockhart to kneel next to it and bend forward so that his belly is on the raft.  They take his arms and stretch them to the far corners, tying them in place with some rope.  Then they wrap more ropes around his knees, pulling them out to the sides and tying them to the nearer corners of the raft.  Brockhart is trapped, able to squirm and kick his feet up and down a bit but not much more.

Richard delivers a little soliloquy then.  He speaks to Brockhart, but it's clear his real audience are the show's executive producers who, if they weren't watching the live feed, have almost certainly been woken up (it's nighttime in the US) and either informed by telephone or summoned to the studio to see how badly their plans have gone wrong.

"I mentioned there'd been a slight change to the rules," Richard says.  "We, the three remaining survivors, have decided that we are tired of you fucking us over.  You've used the lure of that money over there to change us from human beings into animals.  It worked, too.  You pitted us against each other, you made us scheme and plot and hurt and kill each other.  And we eagerly took whatever you dished out, the thought of all those millions blinding us to what we were doing.

"But no more.  Hector, Lane, and I have realized who our true enemy here is.  You know what woke us up?  The realization that to the people calling the shots here, that five million dollars is chump change.  They make or lose that much money every time the stock market hiccups.  Here we were, literally risking our lives for an amount of money that to them is just a rounding error.  They've probably already made ten times that just from the episodes we've already made for them, and they're not even here taking part!"

"What are you going to do?" whimpers Peter.

"We are going to make them pay," Richard answers.  "We can't do that literally, of course, but we can make sure that this last episode is one that they can never air.  They will never be able to make a cent off it."

He walks over to look straight into the lens.  "Of course, an enterprising techie there at the studio could probably find a way to edit up this final episode and distribute it through less conventional channels.  I imagine there's a buck or two to be made from the small but eager audience out there who would be very willing to purchase what you'll be able to produce from this footage."  He stares meaningfully for a few moments, then walks back to where the bound Brockhart kneels.

"Peter, I dearly wish that I could have the men ultimately responsible for our suffering here in your place.  But I only have you.  That's OK, though.  You've been acting as their proxy the whole time.  You've dished out and enforced the rules that they came up with, you acted as god here in their place.  So you will take their punishment for them.

"We're going to start with a good old-fashioned fucking.  It's only fair - you've been fucking us over for weeks."

And with that, Richard drops his shorts and reveals the tool he had killed Moose with.  It's nothing special, as dicks go - in fact it actually looks small on the screen, but that's only because we get so used to seeing the huge dicks of porn stars that an average-sized cock on a screen looks small just from our expectations.

It's large enough, though, and it gets the job done.  Richard climbs up on the raft and gets Peter to slather his cock with spit, telling him that it's the only lubrication he's going to get, so he'd better lay it on thick.  He does.  I love the look on Peter's face as he cranes his neck to reach Richard's cock and slick it up.  Sobs keep threatening to escape, but he manages to keep them in.  After a minute or two, Richard pulls back and walks around behind.  He kneels down on the sand and gets himself into position.  He uses one of the knives to slice a gash in Peter's shorts and underwear, revealing a tightly-puckered hole waiting for him.

Hector's camera work is excellent.  He zooms in close while Richard places the tip of his dick against Peter's ass and begins probing.  There's obvious resistance.  It takes him a good long while to get in.  Peter's whimpers turn to yelps and then to shouts, culminating in a high-pitched squeal when his ring's resistance finally gives way and allows Richard entry.

My collection of pornography is not overly vast, but it's not insignificant, either.  Still, I can say with certainty that of all the material I possess, this scene is the only one that truly shows a straight man being violated against his will.  Everything else I've seen that supposedly shows a straight guy getting raped is very obviously staged: the prison guard forces himself on the convict, the burglar takes advantage of the helpless homeowner, the captured soldier undergoes a particularly intense "interrogation"... but the bottoms all end up grinding and moaning right along with the tops!  If only it were that easy in real life to get a straight guy to change sides!

This is different.  Peter is really hurting; there is no enjoyment in this for him at all.  His ass has, up until this point, only been used as a point of exit, not entry.  When Richard opens up the virgin hole and drives himself inside, Peter doesn't know what to do.  He wants to make the pain stop, but his arms and legs are tied and there's nothing he can do but take it.  Only he doesn't know how to take it, he's had no experience to draw on.  Richard doesn't go gently, either.  He pounds hard and fast, without mercy, with only Peter's spit to smooth out the friction.  Peter shrieks and pleads; Richard just pounds.

Hector sidles around to give us all kinds of close-up shots of the action, of Richard's dick plunging in and out of Peter's hole, of Peter's bound limbs pulling helplessly on the ropes, of the look on Richard's face... of the look on Peter's face.

It's over in a little more than five minutes.  That doesn't sound long, but to judge by Peter's reaction it felt like hours.  Richard pulls out, a thin trace of red following him as he exits.  Lane, who returned from escorting the rest of the crew off the island while Richard was hard at work, kneels down to take his turn.  He doesn't even offer Peter the chance to lube him up, but just punches in where Richard left off.  He takes even less time than Richard did to work his way to orgasm.  Hey, he's only 28 - I could come that fast when I was his age, too.  Peter's shrieks are nearly constant, at least until Richard kneels down by his face and forces his spent dick into Peter's mouth.  Peter tries to push the foul-smelling thing out, but can't get the leverage to do it.  While his dick is plugging up Peter's mouth, Richard uses the knife to destroy the rest of Peter's trendy, tailor-made clothing.

Peter's body turns out to be not much to look at.  He's too scrawny for my taste.  I much prefer watching Lane.  He's gorgeous and really loses himself in the sensation of sex.  Hector makes sure to get plenty of shots of his chest and arms and legs while he pumps.  The look on his face is just beautiful while he operates his pile driver - like a dog, he's living only in the moment.  His entire being is wrapped up in the warm, happy feelings radiating out from his dick.  When he shoots, he quivers in ecstasy and emits these hot panting gasps, thrusting himself in between Peter's cheeks as deep as he can go until at last he allows himself to slip out, accompanied this time by quite a bit more red.

Hector, behind the camera, is reluctant to take a turn.  Richard convinces him, eventually.  "Come on, we know you're straight; everyone knows you're straight.  You're turned on by girls, right, we all know it.  It's OK.  Fucking this shithead won't turn you gay, because this isn't about sex, it's about power.  This guys has been fucking us over for weeks.  This is your chance to pay him back."

Eventually, Hector agrees.  He strokes himself to an erection, then slides it easily in to Peter's stretched-out hole.  Peter moans a bit more, but he's hitting the limit of what he can take.  Lane takes over Richard's position at the clean-up station.  Richard operates the camera for a while, then leaves it on its stand.

When Hector finishes, they leave Peter draped over the edge of the raft.  The editor trimmed some time out here - the next thing we see are the three of them untying him and hoisting them up between Lane and Hector, his arms draped over their shoulders.  Richard leads the group.  Peter is dazed and numb, unresponsive, barely able to control his legs as they walk him toward the platform that he had spent so much time on, gazing majestically out over the tropical sea.

There's something new near the platform, presumably constructed during the cut-out interlude.  It's a vertical post, about two inches in diameter with maybe five feet worth sticking up out of the sand.  The top tapers to a point, not a wickedly sharp one, more of a dull pyramid shape.  Next to the post on either side are the two "treasure" crates from episode seven - apparently they went diving for the second crate some time between Moose's demise and today.  The crates are each about three feet high.  When I first saw the setup, I thought "no, they couldn't possibly be planning what I think they're planning".  But they were.

Lane and Hector lift Peter up the ladder and onto the platform.  It's not large - the three of them are crowded pretty tightly up there.  Peter is mostly slack, aware of what's going on but not putting up any resistance.  That changes when they lift him up over the platform's side railing.  He begins to struggle as they try to get him up and over the edge.  It doesn't do him any good.  He wasn't much of a fighter to begin with, and getting gang-raped has drained what little strength he possessed.

Soon enough, he's up over the railing, facing the platform, his weight supported by Lane and Hector who are holding him by his arms.  Richard reaches up from below, positioning him so that his ass is centered right over the sharp end of the post.  Peter begins to scream and squirm as he feels the wood touch his tender hole.  He kicks his legs and fights to prevent the inevitable from happening, but it happens all the same.  Slowly, Lane and Hector lower Peter down.  The stake forces its way up into the well-stretched hole.  Peter's eyes go wide and roll around in his head as it expands his rectum wider than any of the three dicks that had preceded it and fills his guts with its unyielding stiffness.

They slowly lower him down a few more inches, far enough that his feet can touch the two crates.  They're not close to the stake, so he has to really spread his legs wide and stand on his toes if we wants to support his weight with them and prevent the stake from digging any deeper into his belly.  He's in a lot of pain - his screams aren't even coherent words any more, just formless sounds.  He tries to grab the platform's railing and pull himself up off the stake, but Lane prevents him from getting a firm grip.  Meanwhile, Richard and Hector busy themselves with ropes, tying Peter's ankles to anchors in the sand even further out than the crates.  This has two effects: it forces Peter's legs to maintain their spread-apart position, and also prevents him from lifting his body up off the stake.

When the ropes are firmly in place, Lane finally allows Peter to grab the railing.  Peter clings to it like a lifeline, as it allows him to take some of his weight off his toes.  But with his feet tied as they are, he can't lift himself up very far - the stake stays firmly lodged in place.  He cries in pain and frustration as his grip slackens a bit and he slides a fraction of an inch back down, the stake rubbing against the tender tissue with every movement.

"From this point on," Richard says, "the fucking will never end.  You, Mr. Peter Brockhart, are going to be the last person who gets killed on this island.  How long it takes is pretty much up to you.  Now, you might be thinking that your buddies back at Guam are going to come and rescue you.  They might even be on their way already.  But Guam is a long way away, and they will most definitely not be in time to save you.  You're a dead man, Pete.  Your body just doesn't know it yet.  And you see that camera over there?  That camera is going to capture every single one of your last minutes."

"Please," Peter yelps, his moans coalescing into understandable words.  "Please let me down,  Oh, it hurts, it hurts so bad..."

"Mr. Brockhart, you almost move me to pity.  Let me hear you say that word again, 'please'.  I don't think I ever heard you say it before today, not once during our whole time here."

"Please!" Peter cries.  "Please get me down!  I'm begging you!"

"A little louder," says Richard.  "Let's make sure the folks watching from home can hear you."

"Please!  Please!" Peter shouts hoarsely.  "Please!"  The look on his face is so desperate, so broken, so full of pleading that I almost feel sorry for the guy.  Almost.

"You know what?  You've convinced me.  We shouldn't just leave you up there, standing on those crates, waiting for that stake to skewer you like a pig."

"Oh thank you, oh please, oh get me down..."

"... not without putting it to a vote first.  Men, time for a tribal council.  All in favor of taking Petey-boy down off that stick and setting him free?"

Silence.

"All in favor of kicking those crates out from under his feet?"

"Aye!" shout all three survivors in chorus.  "Fuck 'im," adds Lane.

"NOOOO!" Peter shouts.  He begins to sob.  Hector takes one crate, Richard the other.  They don't kick them out of the way - the crates are too heavy for that.  Instead they slide them out from under Peter's feet until he can't keep his weight on them any more.  First his left foot, then his right slips free, hanging in the air, toes pointed, reaching for support that is no longer there.

His body edges downward once the foot supports are gone.  His arms are wrapped around the railing.  He is obviously not used to this kind of exertion - already his arms are quivering from the strain.

"One last treat, I think," says Richard.  "A little something for our viewing audience.  Lane, you wanna go grab one of those buckets and fill it up for me, please?"

Richard takes another rope and begins to wrap it around Peter's balls, stretching them down low in their sac.  He ties it tightly, so tightly that the nuts immediately begin to darken and turn purple.  Peter is helpless to stop him - he can't spare even one of his arms to try to bat Richard away from his groin and can't even pull his legs together for what little protection that might provide.

When the rope is good and tight, Richard knots it firmly.  Lane returns with the full bucket - it's one of the thick, heavy-duty five-gallon kind, and it's full to the brim with seawater.  He holds it up below Peter's crotch while Richard fixes the rope from Peter's nuts to the bucket handle.  When it's tied on solidly, Lane lowers the bucket - not dropping it, but not being gentle either - until the entire weight of five gallons of water is dangling from Peter's nuts.  "You were never much of a man," Richard remarks, almost conversationally.  "By the time you die, you'll be even less of one."

Now, I'm a nut-stretching fan.  I love the sensation of having my balls pulled tight.  I've dangled weights from my balls plenty of times before, even a one-gallon carton of water.  But I don't think there's any way I could handle a nearly-full five-gallon bucket.  That would be just impossibly painful.  Poor Petey doesn't have any choice, though.  The compromised position he's in makes it impossible for him to refuse.  He keens a high-pitched, whistling wail.

The bucket hangs there, swaying gently around, rubbing against the stake as it moves.  Richard goes over to the camera and zooms in on Peter's nuts.  They're stretched out beyond any reasonable length, down past his knees (which, admittedly, are pulled out to the sides so the vertical distance is not so far.  But I'm getting geeky... it's still a lot of stretch).  The reddish-purple color quickly darkens to more of a blackish-purple.  Richard pans the camera slowly up to Peter's face, then zooms back out and lets us see the whole scene again.

Not much else happens in the way of activity after that.  The men just hang out watching Peter suffer.  Hector goes back to the campsite and returns with snacks and drinks and a couple of the torches, which he has lit... not that they need them, the sun is still high in the sky.  The flames look weak and washed out in the bright daylight.  They sit back, relaxing and sipping drinks while Peter endures the most agonizing ordeal of his entire life.

He keeps trying to maintain his grip on the railing, but he can't.  His arms just don't have the endurance.  Every so often, he can't force them to hold his weight up as high any longer and slides down a bit.  The shaft digs deeper into his belly.  The ropes holding his feet gain a little bit of slack, allowing him to move them around a bit more, but of course there's nothing useful he can do with them.  And the failing of his arms doesn't help his balls one bit, because that full bucket just sinks down with him, millimeter for millimeter.  He won't get any relief there until the bucket actually reaches the sand, and of course by the time that happens, the stake will be halfway up his spine.

Then, at the two hours, twenty-three minutes mark, there's a change.  We can't hear anything, but the three survivors all stand up at once.  "There's the plane," says Richard.  Apparently the rescue plan that they had been anticipating is passing near Ake'epe on its way from Guam to the airstrip at Falalop.  "Time to get moving."  He leans in to the camera.  "One last treat before we go," he whispers.

He steps back and grabs one of the torches.  He snuffs it out, then empties the oil from its reservoir all over the wooden platform, splashing it liberally on the support posts and the railings, too, though he avoids getting any on Peter.  Then he brings the other torch over and touches the flame to the oil-soaked wood.

"Nighty-night, Peter," he says as the platform erupts in blue fire.  The blue quickly turns yellow, then orange as the wood begins to burn.  Peter panics completely.  He can't hold on to the railing any more; it's too close to the flames.  But if he lets go, there's nothing to stop the stake from having its way with him.  Richard, Lane, and Hector all disappear out of view in the direction of the camp.  All we're left with is the sight of Peter Brockhart, impaled on a thick wooden stake, inches away from a roaring inferno.

He holds on for longer than I would have thought possible, until at last the heat of the fire forces him to let go.  Immediately he sinks down at least six inches.  Suddenly there is plenty of slack in the ropes holding his feet.  His arms are free, but there is nothing he can do.  There is no way he can get leverage to get himself free of the stake.  He tries at one point to bend over to untie one of his feet, but his body won't bend - the stake has gone too far up into his waist.  Then he tries to untie the rope around his balls, but Richard's knots are tight and they hold fast.

The flames roar higher.  Peter's skin begins to blister and burn.  He twists on the top of the stake like a flag flapping in the wind.  Every movement jams his body farther down onto the wooden post.  He gets to the point where he can't even scream any more.

After ten minutes or so, the flames have died down.  The platform is a smoldering wreck - there is no longer anything left for Peter to try to lift himself with.  His toes are brushing the ground; so is the bucket hanging from his obscenely elongated ball sac.  It seems that some kind of equilibrium point has been reached, because from this point on he doesn't slide down any further.  I would think that having a stake driven so far through a man's body would be enough to kill him, but apparently it isn't immediately fatal, because we can see Peter continuing to draw agonized breaths and occasionally flapping his useless arms for the rest of the length of the video.

The editor doesn't take anything out.  It's not much to watch because he doesn't really do anything, but we get to see every minute of Peter's final agony, just as Richard promised.  The scene stays on Peter's dying body until hour mark 2:54, when we hear the sound of a motorboat coming up and landing on the beach.  We hear men shouting.  One of them says "shut that camera off!".  The camera tips crazily to the side, showing a shot of blue sky and a glimpse of men piling out of the boat and rushing to Peter's aid.  Then the view fades to black.

The video ends with a few captions appearing on the black screen in slow succession, each fading in and out.  They say:

"Peter Brockhart was still alive when the rescue team arrived on Ake'epe."

"He was still alive on the boat ride to Falalop."

"He was still alive when the plane took off for Guam."

Then a longer pause, then:

"He did not make it to Guam."

"The camera crew was rescued after six hours on the raft."

"As of this writing, Richard, Lane, and Hector have not been seen again."

"Neither has the money."

... and there it ends.

Would you like to take me up on that offer to make you a copy?

 

In a sense, it's not really an ending.  I mean, it was certainly an ending for Peter Brockhart, and a damned unpleasant one.  But the show was never really about him; he was just the narrator.  The show was about the survivors.  Not knowing what happened to them is very unsatisfying.

History's mysteries have a way of capturing our attention.  When the outcome of a story is unknown, we like to make up our own ending, to tell what "should" have happened.  Amelia Earhart most likely crashed in the ocean and drowned, but that doesn't stop us from imagining that she might have lived for decades on a desert isle, or married a Japanese prince, or been raptured up by aliens in a UFO.

In the same way, what could the three survivors have done to disappear?  They were stuck on a speck of sand in an ocean that takes up half the planet - where could they have gone?  The most likely explanation is that they all drowned - they took the chest of money, walked into the ocean where the current would carry their bodies away, and surrendered to the sea.  This is the line the producers are taking in their court testimony, and they're sticking to it.

But that explanation doesn't pass the sniff test.  These were the survivors.  They had outlasted the tough guys like Gunner and Moose; they had bested Peter and the producers and their the rifle-toting hired guns; they had won.  They wouldn't just throw it all away.

So let me spin you a little yarn.  This is all my own made-up fantasy, of course, with no proof at all to back it up.  But hear me out...

 

Peter, Lane, and Hector jog off-screen, leaving Peter to endure the heat of the flames and the relentless pull of gravity.  They pass the campsite, pick up packs of food, water, and cash - Lane had thoughtfully prepared them after seeing the rest of the crew off on their raft.  I doubt there would have been the full five million in that chest Peter was flaunting - the producers wouldn't have bothered to put any more real money there than was necessary to make a good visual on screen.  But there were certainly a lot of hundreds there and they sure looked genuine, so let's say for the sake of argument that the chest contained only one mil.  That's still $333,000 apiece.

They took off to the north shore, a different spot than where the cameramen were launched from.  Waiting there for them was a motorboat.  It had been left by some young bucks from Ulithi.  Why?  Because they had become friends with the survivors, of course.  Ake'epe was only a short hop from their islands, and let's face it, there's not a lot of novelty out there in the western Pacific.  Once word got around that there was action going on an hour's boat ride away, of course some bored young men would decide to drop in on the castaways every now and then, just to see what was happening - more excitement in their lives than they'd usually see in a year!

Friendly, outgoing Lane would have struck up a conversation with them.  Cunning, manipulative Richard would have seen a way he could make use of their willingness to get involved.  Hector?  I dunno, he's a blank to me.  Maybe he's just along for the ride, or maybe he's got an agenda of his own.

Anyway, the boat is waiting there for them.  While the rescue crew's plane is landing, the trio sets out on the boat.  They swing way to the west on their way to Ulithi so as to avoid passing the rescue crew coming the other way.

Once they reach Ulithi, who knows what happens?  A million bucks can buy a lot in that part of the world.  They could catch a ride to pretty much anywhere in the area, Indonesia or the Philippines or Tahiti.  Thailand is a good place to go when you have a lot of cash and need a discreet place to spend it.  My guess is that's where Hector headed.

And Richard and Lane?  You might think this crazy, but my suspicion is they lay low, hung out in Ulithi for a while, maybe even caught a ride to Yap just to put some distance between themselves and any possible pursuers, and then, when the heat was off…

... headed right back to Ake'epe!

Why would they do that, you ask?  Because they'd fallen in love.

And now you scoff.  But look, there is evidence sprinkled throughout the series!  Episode two, when Tony is dying from pufon'giyep poison.  While the others dither on the beach, it's Richard that Lane looks to for leadership.  Episode three, while they argue about what they will do about Glenn, it's Richard Lane is sitting next to, Richard he defers to.  And the feeling is mutual - in episode six there's a moment at 19:24 where Richard squeezes Lane's shoulder for moral support, but lets his hand linger just a bit longer than necessary.

Throughout the later episodes, every time both Richard and Lane are in frame, you can see that they orient themselves around each other.  They probably aren't even aware they're doing it, but they do.  They are each constantly aware of the other in that way that you can see with newlyweds at a cocktail party or old married couples at a rest home.  They may talk or joke or laugh or argue with other people, but a tiny part of their attention is constantly focused on their one and only.

You still doubt?  This is just circumstantial evidence?  Well, perhaps you're right.  But consider this: episode five, minute mark 10:12.  Watch it in slow motion.  In the foreground is Gunner during one of his interviews; in the background is Lane, sitting alone, looking down.  You don't see much of him - he's mostly hidden in foliage.  He's only visible from the lower part of his face down to the middle of his bare chest.  The image is out of focus but it's recognizably him.  He probably thought he was in an isolated spot, getting a brief moment of as much privacy as he could on a very small island, and neither he nor the editor realized he was in the frame of the camera.

Right at the end of Gunner's speech, just before the camera cuts away, there's a flicker of motion.   You can see something rising up from where Lane's lap would be.  It's hard to make out what it is unless you already know, and then it's so obvious that it can't be anything else: Richard's head.

They were lovers.  Moose knew it.  In episodes five and six, when he was taunting Richard about being gay, he was also taunting Lane, because by that point Moose had found out.  But the producers edited out most of the comments Moose made about Lane, leaving in only the ones about Richard with a few vague "cocksucker" references directed at Lane, no more an accusation of actual homosexuality than calling him an "asshole" would imply that he was an actual rectum.

Why this slant?  Why cover up the budding romance?  Perhaps because one gay guy on a show is a quaint oddball, but having two - one of them a gorgeous, otherwise "normal" red-blooded American - in a relationship with each other would drop the show into the "gay zone" and risk losing that all-important 18-to-50 straight male demographic that the advertisers covet.  I can't say for sure.

But that's my guess.  Richard wanted a total break from his previous life; Lane wanted a daddy figure, someone to look up to, someone who would take care of him.  They found each other on that island, and after seven weeks there, they had learned how to wrest a living from the sand and waves.  They wouldn't even need the money - perhaps they only kept a small share to pay the Ulithians for their help, socked away some as a rainy-day fund, and let Hector take the rest.  What use would they have for money?  They had each other and their own tropical paradise, what more did they need?

I would be willing to bet that if you were to pay a visit to Ake'epe today, you would find the two of them living there in pastoral splendor with a little shelter they'd built to keep out the worst of the rains, a tidy little kitchen space where they cook the fish they catch, with those helpful Ulithians occasionally dropping by to sell or trade them things they can't make or grow or catch themselves.

Oh, I'm sure like any story, there's no "happily ever after".  Relationships forged in times of extreme stress seldom last.  One day Lane will get bored and want to have more excitement in his life, or Richard will grow tired of being the "daddy" figure and want someone else to take charge for once.  But my guess is they'll have at least five or ten happy years together before things fall apart.

And really, in this harsh world, if you can squeeze out a few good years like that, I'd say you're doing pretty darn well.