Last Time on Survivor:
Despite James' betrayal over the Gorebyss alliance, Takuya forgives his ally in hopes of breaking Huntail apart. Initially, the two friends mask their alliance by pretending they had a heated "argument" in front of everybody. While the rest of Clamperl is successfully deceived, problems arise between James and Takuya when they couldn't agree who to vote out. Takuya wants to vote Drew out, while James is determined that May leaves the game. Failing to come to a resolution, the Gorebyss alliance is officially no more.
Meanwhile, TK finds himself in the middle between May and Drew's campaigns to vote each other out. TK insists that Huntail stays together to the end, but his hopes are dashed when Huntail's common enemy Takuya wins immunity. To make matters worse, the intense challenge worsens the injury on TK's leg. At tribal council, TK is forced to decide his allegiance between May or Drew. In the end, he chooses to vote out May in a 3-2 vote. Now, only four people remain. Who will be the Sole Survivor?
Episode Thirteen: When Plans Go Haywire
Clamperl: DREW – JAMES – TAKUYA – TK
- - -
A vicious thunderstorm struck the Clamperl camp last night, taking the four remaining players by surprise. They grew so accustomed to the sunny days and tropical climate that they sometimes forgot how harsh and unpredictable the weather could be. Clad in their thin blankets and worn-out clothing, the men experienced this lesson in the most unpleasant manner. Streaks of lightning flashed across the night sky, followed by the roaring thunder that kept everybody awake. This catastrophe continued until early morning on the next day. The ferocious storm finally died away, but the damage to the tribe morale has already been done.
James was the lucky one. The Team Rocket member had been so physically exhausted that he slept through most of the storm. According to his disgruntled tribe members, they didn't catch a single wink of sleep last night. When James woke up this morning, he was not surprised to see that the other three men were still fast asleep. With a crucial immunity challenge looming ahead, all of the players wanted to preserve as much energy as possible.
James was not pleased to see the status of his campsite. It was a complete wreck. Most of their camp supplies were drenched from the constant downpour and it would take hours before anything became dry again. In addition, their campfire was doused by the rain. James was disappointed to find out that his attempt of protecting the fire – by covering it with their large cooking pot – failed to help matters. Starting a fire was no easy task, but it became an even bigger nuisance since they only had wet leaves and soggy matches to work with.
"I'm not even going to touch the fire." James whispered to the cameras. He shook his head as he glanced at the pile of wet leaves and twigs that used to be their campfire. "That'd take too much energy. I'll let one of the other guys do it."
On the bright side, their food supplies remained relatively dry. It was Drew's idea to secure their containers so the water wouldn't seep into their food. This turned out to be an ingenious plan, since Clamperl could not afford losing the little amount of food left in their camp. With that tiny beam of hope in the midst of the gloomy situation, James managed to force a weak smile on his face. He could not do much of anything without a fire or the right supplies, but the least he can do for his tribe members was cook them a decent meal when they wake up. A plate of apples should be sufficient enough. It's the effort that counts, thought James. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
It wasn't until a few hours later when the other three men woke up, just as noon was approaching. Takuya and TK went to collect treemail, whilst Drew joined James' company near their dining area. The Pokemon Coordinator sat next to James on the log.
"That was a rough night." Drew muttered wearily. He glance at a puddle on the ground and sighed. "The worst one since we've been out here."
"Hey, it's just three more days." James said, flashing a smile at the Pokemon Coordinator. "Three more days and we're out of here."
"That's comforting." Drew mumbled, returning the smile.
"And you know, I think...I think all of this will be worth it when we're sitting next to each other in the Final Two." James continued. He slowly nodded his head to himself. "One million dollars will be worth everything that we've been through..."
"Yeah." Drew's grin widened as soon as he heard those words from James. "So, it's you and me? Are you sure?"
"Final Two." James confirmed with a nod.
James: Okay, I solidified my alliance with Drew this morning. I feel a little filthy now, but I had to do it. I can't afford to be...wishy-washy anymore. If I don't make up my mind, I'll just put myself in unnecessary danger. Besides, I want to take Drew to the Final Two because...because he's the only one I've a chance of beating. And even then, it's going to be close.
James looked serious as he spoke to the cameras. He pushed a strand of hair away from his emerald green eyes.
James: Sometimes, I feel like I've made a deal with the devil. I know I can't trust Drew, but it's the best move for me to align with him. Yeah, I...I've a gut feeling that Drew is playing me like a fiddle. And he's probably laughing about it behind my back. I don't mind though. He can think that he's manipulating me all he wants, just as long as it's me who wins the million dollars in the end!
"From now on, we can only depend on each other, James. We're on the same boat." Drew grunted. "I can't trust TK just like how you can't trust Drew."
"I know." James mumbled.
"It's only a matter of getting to the Final Two with each other." Drew explained. He picked up a stick nearby and began sketching a diagram on the sand. "It's the two of us against the two of them."
"If Takuya or TK finds out about us, they'll try their best to sabotage us," added James.
"We can't let that happen." Drew shook his head. "The one advantage we have over them is that they don't know about us yet. So, we'll have to let them believe there's no deal between us."
"But what if...what if Takuya and TK suspect something? I'm worried, Drew. What if they team up and make an alliance together?" James suggested. His voice trembled in uncertainty. "They can force a tie at tribal council. They have a lot of power..."
"I can't rule out that possibility." Drew said. The expression on his face looked jaded. He paused for a few seconds before he turned towards James. "What do you think we should do?"
"Me? I don't really know." James sighed.
"Do we vote Takuya out first? Or do we vote TK out first?" Drew asked, narrowing his eyes at the Team Rocket member. "They both have to go eventually, but it's important to determine the right order."
"Well...I think we should vote out TK first." James said as he scratched his head. "He's too friendly with everyone. None of us can win against him in the finals."
"I agree, but..." Drew nodded his head. A sly smirk spread across his face. "But that shouldn't matter if it's going to be you and me in the finals."
"Huh?" James responded, looking a little confused.
"TK can have seven friends on the jury and he still won't win if we don't let him get to the finals," explained Drew.
"Yeah, that's...that's right." James muttered.
"Here's my plan. I'll let TK keep believing that he has a Final Two pact with me." Drew flashed a concerned gaze at James as he quickly added, "But don't worry, hell will freeze over before I hand over my entire game to TK like that."
The Pokemon Coordinator drew four stick figures on the sand – three on the left and one on the right. This was the scenario that Drew pictured happening at their next tribal council.
"The three of us should team up and vote out Takuya at the Final Four." Drew said, "We can turn TK against Takuya if we want to. Those two guys never met eye to eye with each other."
James nodded his head slowly, although he looked somewhat dubious about Drew's idea.
"Then, one of us wins the immunity challenge and vote out TK." Drew said, "The final immunity involves some test of endurance, right? There's no way TK can win that. Not in his condition."
"TK might surprise us though. I know he looks weak, but he...he has an extensive athletic background. I heard he used to run in marathons and that requires a lot of endurance." James winced. "He can tough it out with the best of us."
"Let's just say we'll have an easier time beating TK than Takuya at any challenge." Drew frowned. He folded his arms across his chest in a defensive manner. "The sooner Takuya goes, the better."
Drew: James only knows half the truth. It's important that Takuya goes first because he might still have some influence over James, and I can't take that risk. I hate giving Takuya credit, but he must be doing something right in this game. Every time I try to vote him out, he pulls a miracle out of his ass and it keeps him in the game. He convinced JP to switch his vote, he convinced May to switch her vote, and I know he's dying for the chance to make his salesman pitch to James.
Drew rubbed his chin thoughtfully. There was a pretentious smirk on his face.
Drew: Takuya might be good at manipulating his friends to do his bidding, but he's about to meet his match. After all, James and I have a history together. I convinced James to betray the Breakfast Alliance way back in the first tribal council. And since then, I know James will listen to anything I say. I know he'll do anything I tell him to do...
"Do you see my point, James?" Drew asked.
"You're right." James nodded his head. "We need to vote Takuya off."
"We'll string TK along to the Final Three and ditch him then. As long as they don't catch on to the two of us, we'll be fine," said Drew.
"I do hope nothing goes wrong with our plan." James muttered. "It seems so risky. One mistake and it could all fall apart..."
"Great, you jinxed it. Now it's never going to happen." Drew said jokingly.
"Hey, don't say that!" James chuckled. He tapped his fist on the log several times. "Knock on wood!"
- - -
After the scuffle with Takuya yesterday at the immunity challenge, the vicious rainstorm felt like a suitable conclusion to TK's miserable day. His tribe members were sympathetic and supportive to him, but they were not the ones with the bleeding foot. It was TK who had to lie on the treatment table for hours, his entire body throbbing with tremendous pain. During those times, the pain was so overwhelming that TK felt his brain completely shut down. He could not think. He could not feel. The only thing he could do was hope – hope for the best.
TK did recover, but at a heavy price. There had been a heated argument amongst the medical team, debating whether or not the blonde should continue playing the game under his conditions. As one doctor described the incident, "You lucked out two times, TK Takaishi. But we don't want to find out if the third time's the charm". But after spending so much time with the blonde, the doctors also knew how he thought. TK would not want to give up, especially after the traumatic journey he went through so far. So, the doctors reluctantly turned a blind eye as they allowed TK to continue the last three days of his game, knowing all responsibilities fall on them if TK got seriously injured another time.
TK: I've a bit of a limb when I walk, but the good thing is that I can still walk. I'm getting used to numbing the pain in my leg, so it doesn't hurt that much anymore. Anyway, I know how to count my blessings. I'm extremely grateful that I can still play this time, no matter how many reckless situations I get myself into. I must be one of the luckiest men alive. Someone...someone must be watching out for me!
He smiled cheerfully at the cameras – a type of smile uncommon on a person who could not walk just twelve hours ago.
TK: I was so ambitious about winning that last challenge, I let common sense go over my head a little. I got careless, but I promise I'll stay cautious this time. Miracles don't happen three times in a row.
This morning was another day for TK Takaishi. But it didn't start out the way he had expected.
He was used to having different people accompany him while he was retrieving treemail. JP and Casey often did, but never could TK imagine that Takuya would volunteer to walk with the blonde today. At first, TK was puzzled at this characteristic gesture from Takuya, considering that the two of them weren't on the best of terms. Takuya was the last person TK thought he would be talking with, but stranger things had happened in the game of Survivor. And currently, TK found himself stuck in the middle of an awkward conversation with the athletic goggle-head.
"That was quite a storm last night, wasn't it?" Takuya asked.
"Yeah. What a horrible way to end the night." TK nodded politely. He was hoping that Takuya would bring up how this was the first one-on-one conversation they had since the two tribes merged together. But talking about the weather seemed like a safe topic for now.
"May hates this type of weather." Takuya laughed. "I bet she's glad that she's in a warm cozy bed instead of being out here like us."
"She's a trooper. She would have fought through this storm like the rest of us," said TK.
"Of course." Takuya said, nodding his head somewhat too eagerly. "I never doubted her for a second."
The conversation came to an abrupt stop, almost as if the two men had ran out of things to say to each other. They continued walking towards the mailbox in silence. TK took this time to admire the beautiful island scenery, whereas Takuya was more occupied with staring at the ground and mumbling unintelligible words under his breath. Occasionally, he would glance at TK with his mouth opened but no words came out. This silent charade continued for several minutes until Takuya finally gathered the courage to speak. He cleared his throat in an intentionally loud manner, hoping that it would grab TK's attention.
"I'm sorry, TK!" Takuya exclaimed.
TK stopped walking. The blonde blinked unresponsively at the Frontier, whose head was pointed to the ground. Takuya's eyes did not meet TK's gaze as he spoke.
"Nothing I say can make up for what I did, but...but I'm really sorry for acting like a major jackass." Takuya muttered apologetically. "I wasn't thinking...when I punched you. I never meant to hurt you...I just...got into the moment..."
"Yeah, it's okay." TK said, smiling faintly at the flustered Frontier. "I accept your apology."
Takuya sighed in relief.
"Thanks. You're obvious a bigger person than me." Takuya muttered. He shook his head in dissatisfaction. "I don't think I can turn the other cheek if I was in your shoes."
"Well, I think it takes a lot of...strength to swallow your pride and actually apologize to someone." TK smiled gently at the Frontier, but Takuya did not return the smile.
"No, I'm an idiot for attacking you like that. I accept all the responsibility and blame over my actions," said Takuya.
"Don't put yourself down." TK frowned.
"I think I'd feel a little better if you didn't forgive me." Takuya laughed nervously. "It's easier to feel remorse for what I did if you actually hate me."
"But I don't like holding grudges. Forgive and forget, right?" TK chuckled.
"Stop it. Stop it. Stop comforting me, damn it..." Takuya groaned. "You're the one who's injured! I should be comforting you and asking how you feel and stuff, not the other way around!"
"Whatever makes you feel better, I guess." TK shrugged his shoulders. "I've already forgiven you, so all that's left is for you to forgive yourself."
"I can't compete. You're just too damn nice, dude." Takuya grinned. "I...I just wish there was a way to repay you. Like, some way to cleanse my conscience."
"There is one thing. I'd like you to accept my apology." TK smiled at the Frontier.
"Huh?" Takuya asked.
"I'm sorry that I misjudged you in the past." TK explained as the smile on his face disappeared. "Don't take this the wrong way, but you always bothered me because you're so...so different."
"Well, I can be very raw sometimes. I get it. People don't like me." Takuya shrugged his shoulders. He coughed a few times to cover up his embarrassment. "I'm used to it."
"That's not what I mean, Takuya. Yes, you might have some outstanding flaws. But so what? We all do." TK said, biting his lips. "Once I look past your flaws, I...I don't think you're that bad of a guy at all."
"Thanks, I guess." Takuya laughed. He waved his hand in dismissal. "Look, it's all in the past. You said it yourself...forgive and forget about it!"
"Right. I'm just glad we cleared out any misunderstanding between the two of us." TK flashed a thumbs-up gesture.
"Hey, it's never too late to reconcile." Takuya grinned.
"Takuya, I think if the circumstances are different, we could have made quite a team." TK grinned cheekily at the Frontier. "You and me."
"Oh yeah, we would have done some colossal damage!" Takuya laughed, pumping his fist in the air.
"Like you said, I don't think it's too late for us to reconcile..." TK paused as he searched for the proper term. "And consider our options in this game."
Before Takuya could respond, a sudden noise behind them startled both men. They turned around and discovered Drew emerging from behind a large bush, leaves ruffling as the Coordinator stepped out of the plant. He waved at Takuya and TK as if there was nothing wrong with his bizarre entrance.
"Hello." Drew said. He carried an enigmatic smile on his boyish face. "Did you get treemail yet?"
"Not yet." TK replied, but immediately stopped himself after he heard his voice crack a little. He sounded too guilty, even though he felt he had nothing to hide.
"You two better hurry up." Drew muttered, eyeing both TK and Takuya with evident suspicion. "James made lunch already. We're waiting for you."
"Alright..." TK muttered.
Feeling uncomfortable under Drew's gaze, TK turned away. He caught Takuya's glance and the two of them exchanged dubious looks with ach other. The blonde can tell that Takuya was just as surprised about Drew's presence as he was. It seemed too convenient for Drew to show up just as TK was about to propose an alliance. It was obvious that Drew had been following the two of them and nosily eavesdropping on their private conversation. It was just a question of how much he heard and what conclusions he thought of afterwards.
TK: Drew was spying on me. It's really suspicious to me. I mean, if he's doing that, his trust in me is probably limited. He must think I'm trying to start an alliance with Takuya. And I'm not denying it, but I can tell I've lost some ground with Drew. He doesn't trust me as much as he used to. I think...I need a back-up plan. Just in case.
He nervously bit his lips.
TK: I think I see the problem. Drew is afraid that I won't stay loyal to him because...because he knows he'll lose in a tiebreaker against Takuya or me. He has five votes cast against him in the past – and that's more than what either of us has. I think of it as the kryptonite to his strategy. If Takuya and I force a tie at tribal council, then it's ka-boom! And goodbye, Drew!
- - -
Twelve immunity challenges later, Takuya knew the drill. He had to win this one. Victory was mandatory.
"Welcome to your second-to-last immunity challenge," said Professor Birch as he turned to face the athletic Frontier. "First things first...I need the immunity necklace back."
Takuya unconsciously wrapped his burly hands around his immunity necklace. He felt reluctant to remove this item from his possession. The necklace was a symbol for all the sweat he poured, all the tears he shred, all the energy he invested in winning these challenges. He worked hard to earn this immunity and he did not want to give it up. Deep down, he thought it was silly to grow emotionally attached to a dead object. But Takuya was a desperate man. He walked into every immunity challenge, imagining that it would be his last. Today was no exception. If Takuya doesn't win, he was gone.
"Takuya?" Professor Birch asked. A small frown was curling at the corners of his lips. "I need the necklace."
"Oh...oh right." Takuya smiled in embarrassment. He took off the necklace and handed it back to the professor.
"Immunity is back up for grabs." Professor Birch nodded his head, raising the necklace high in the air. "The stakes are high. Whoever wins this immunity challenge will be guaranteed a place in the Final Three, and one step closer to a million dollars."
"No pressure!" James giggled nervously.
"Now, for today's challenge...it's going to be a big one." Professor Birch grinned. "Fire, earth, air and water are the four classical elements in Greek culture. We incorporated these four elements in our immunity challenge today."
Professor Birch grinned as he gestured towards the four work stations that they had prepared on the beach. There weren't a lot of equipment set up, save a loosely built fence post that was tied together by four pieces of rope. Attached to the end of each rope was a purple balloon.
"There are multiple parts to this immunity challenge. First, you must build a fire. In order to do that, you must race to the forest and gather twigs, leaves, branches, or anything that can assist you in building that fire." Professor Birch explained. "Remember, it is the earth that's providing you with these materials."
Professor Birch gestured his hand at a particular point in the ocean. There was a small floating platform some distance away.
"Also to help you build the fire, you're given a box of matches. However, you must retrieve them by water." Professor Birch continued, "You must swim out to the ocean and reach the floating platform. Once there, you'll find these items on the surface. Grab one box and only one. Afterwards, head back to finish the last stage of your challenge."
The professor walked over to one of the stations set up for this challenge. He pointed to a thin piece of rope that was attached to a gigantic purple balloon.
"When you have all the materials you need, you must build a fire. Once it's started, you must keep the flames strong enough so that it'll burn this piece of rope." Professor Birch said, "As a result, the rope will release a balloon into the air, which is the signal for victory. The first person to release the balloon wins immunity, guaranteed safety at the next tribal council."
The four players mumbled in excitement, but the professor quickly shushed them.
"If there are no more questions, we'll start the challenge." Professor Birch instructed. The players obeyed his orders and walked over to their individual stations. "On my go, you'll run to the forest to gather materials that'll help start your fire. You must also retrieve a box of matches from the ocean." Professor Birch paused as the players acknowledged his procedures. "Survivors ready? Go!"
Takuya, TK and Jamees immediately dashed into the forest to collect the materials to start their fire. Only Drew opted to swim out to the floating platform, choosing to retrieve his matches first. He figured that this was the more convenient method, since his body will need time to dry before he began making fire with them.
"James is already heading back with a bundle of stuff. Now, he's heading out to grab his matches." Professor Birch announced. He was giving a running commentary as the challenge progressed. "Takuya is right behind. He got a lot of stuff to help him with the fire! But he thinks he needs more, so he's going back to the forest. That's going to cost a lot of time."
TK arrived later, dropping his pile of tinder in his designated work station. He took a glimpse at the materials that James gathered and frowned. Comparing the sizes of their supplies, the Team Rocket member collected way more than the blonde. Feeling unsatisfied with what he got, TK ran back into the forest for a second try.
"Drew got his box of matches! He's making his way back to shore." Professor Birch declared, "The matches are getting wet in the water – that's not good! Oh, here comes Takuya..." The professor paused briefly as the Frontier ran past him to reach his work station. "He's now making his way to the ocean!"
Only TK remained on land, still lagging behind from the rest of his competition. The perfectionist blonde struggled the most since he was being picky with his choices, whereas James and Takuya grabbed anything they could find in the forest – chips of old bark from trees, dried-up leaves, and broken twigs found on the ground.
After a quick swim, Drew returned from the sea. Just as he made his way to the forest, TK headed back, carrying an armful of materials.
"TK is back from the forest. He's finally heading out to the ocean!" Professor Birch shouted. James and Takuya are making their way back. They have their matches and they found a way of keeping them dry!"
Takuya and James adopted the same strategy. Taking the shirts off their backs, they wrapped the cloth around the box of matches. It did not ensure that the matches will stay absolutely dry, but it was at least an effort in their parts. The two men came back to shore at the same time. Although James had a head start with the swimming, Takuya and his athletic prowess caught up to the physically exhausted Huntail member.
The two men ran towards their work station with their box of matches in hand, eager to get the fire started. Unfortunately for James, he encountered an enormous problem.
"James tries to start a fire, but he has a problem!" Professor Birch said, "It's a windy day today, and some of the tinder that he gathered has been blown away!"
The Team Rocket member cursed his bad luck as he picked up his items, scattered all across the beach. Meanwhile, Takuya was in the process of arranging his driftwood in a concise pile, shaping it into a tiny teepee.
"Drew has his supplies! He's now working on his fire as well!" Professor Birch declared.
While Takuya fumbled around with his tinder, Drew managed to catch up by messily putting several twigs and branches on each other. Then, the Pokemon Coordinator grabbed his box of matches and struck one. No success. Feeling frustrated, Drew gave several more tries and got the same result each time.
"My matches are wet..." Drew muttered under his breath, finally realizing where his problem originated. With a box of wet soggy matches, there was nothing much he could do but to curse himself at his carelessness.
Meanwhile, James finally gathered his materials that was scattered across the beach. Like Takuya, he built a small teepee out of his tinder. He pulled out a match – thankfully, a dry one – and struck it. The match lit, but the wind blew it out a second later. James tried again. This time, the match stayed lit.
Takuya glanced anxiously at the Team Rocket member. James had a fire started, albeit it was a weak one. For some reason, Takuya's matches kept blowing out whenever he tried lighting them. It must be the wind. Takuya thought to himself. He guessed the direction that the wind was blowing from and positioned his body so that he was facing his back towards it. In his new spot, he tried igniting his match. Still nothing.
"TK is back with his matches! All four men are working on their fires, but only James has something going!" Professor Birch announced. "Drew is trying really hard and...and he has one! He has a fire!"
To Drew's amazement, he managed to produce a fire despite his ineffective matches. He flashed a quick boastful smile at the other players before he leaned towards it and carefully blew on the fire. He placed a few branches on top of the fire, hoping for it to grow large enough to reach the string.
At roughly the same time, Takuya also got his fire started. He took a second to cheer silently to himself. Since his pile of timber was arranged in such a careful and deliberate manner, Takuya didn't have to do much to keep the fire going. In fact, his flame was growing larger and larger all by itself. Takuya grinned. Mother Nature was on his side today.
James, who had been in the lead several minutes ago, was losing ground to his competitors. His weakly lit flame was dying and all it took was one strong gust of wind to blow, extinguishing James' fire completely. The Team Rocket member sighed. He had to start over again.
"It seems like a close race between Drew and Takuya!" Professor Birch said, "They're the only ones with a fire! Takuya looks like he has an edge over Drew. His fire is a little bigger...a little closer to burning that rope."
Unfortunately, TK did not share the same luck as the rest of the men. No fire yet.
Takuya and Drew both worked frantically to add small bits of wood to their fire, but things didn't look good for Drew, since he had ran out of supplies. Takuya still had a fair amount of leaves and twigs, which he continuously add to his fire to keep it growing.
And a few seconds later, he did it. His strongly lit flame burned the rope, which released a gigantic purple balloon in the air.
"Takuya wins immunity!" Professor Birch announced.
"Yeah! Hell yeah!" Takuya hollered. He pumped his fist energetically in the air. "Final Three, baby!"
"Here you go, Takuya. I believe this is yours," said Professor Birch as he offered the immunity necklace to the Frontier. Takuya accepted it with a gracious and triumphant smile on his face.
"Thanks, professor." Takuya grinned. "This is so awesome."
He wrapped his hands around the immunity necklace and kissed it. It was taken away from him minutes ago, but now it was back in his hands. Just the touch of the necklace gave Takuya the sensation of immense comfort. He could almost feel joyous tears swelling in his eyes. At that moment, Takuya promised himself that he would never give this necklace up. He never wanted to part with immunity ever again.
Thirteen immunity challenges later, Takuya knew the drill. Just one more challenge to go. He had to win the next one. Victory was mandatory.
- - -
Several thoughts crossed Drew's mind the moment Takuya won immunity today.
One, he was furious at himself for losing such a crucial immunity challenge, especially since he came so close to winning. Drew was actually in the lead for a while, but leave it up to Takuya to pull through and steal a victory right under the Coordinator's nose. Now, Drew had a one in three chance of getting voted off, while Takuya can relax for the entire without needing to worry about the upcoming vote.
Two, Drew made sure he stuck to Takuya like glue. Wherever Takuya went, Drew followed. If it meant invading Takuya's personal space right up to the point where he can't go to the washroom alone, then so be it. Drew must not create any opportunity for TK to collude with Takuya. Just one minute of them talking can make all the difference in the game. They can share notes, conspire together, or worse – form a temporary alliance and force a tie at the next tribal council.
And three, Takuya winning immunity meant only one outcome can happen at tribal council. TK Takaishi was in danger of being voted out tonight, more so than he had imagined.
Despite the numerous variables that can affect the outcome tonight, Drew still felt confident his solid plan will remain strong, and he will remain in the game after tribal council. As long as TK and Takuya don't vote together, Drew thought he was safe. Unfortunately, there were some evident flaws in his logic. Most noticeably, Drew lost immunity to Takuya, the last person he'd want to win immunity today. It meant that Drew lost the one leverage he had to bargain with TK for his vote. It also meant Drew had to cut TK loose one tribal council too soon. But to protect his ideal Final Two plan with James, sacrifices had to be made. Drew believed he made a great recovery considering the limited resources and dire circumstances.
However, that led to the second flaw in Drew's plan. Due to the unexpected changes, Drew now had to inform James about their new strategy for tribal council. Although it seemed more than obvious what the two allies should do, Drew felt a little safer if he confirmed his alliance with James right before the vote. But in order to have a one-on-one conversation with James, it meant Drew had to leave Takuya alone for a couple of minutes.
And that was more than enough time for TK to make his move.
TK: It's the Final Four and old alliances are thrown out of the window. I don't think I'm safe at all. Uh, I'm positive that Drew doesn't have my back anymore. Looking at the game from his perspective, I know he'd rather face James in the Final Two than me. That's pretty obvious.
TK rubbed his chin. He smiled faintly at the cameras.
TK: So, I'm going to make a final pitch to Takuya. If we vote together tonight, we can really shake the game up. It's our last opportunity to outsmart the puppetmaster at his game.
"Hey, Takuya. Do you have a minute?" TK asked.
Takuya looked up from his seat to see the gentle face of TK Takaishi. The athletic Frontier grinned as he motioned a friendly gesture to TK, inviting the blonde to sit next to him by the shelter.
"Yeah, yeah...I sure do. I actually need your help in something." Takuya grinned. He raised his arm, showing TK a box of matches in his hand. "I'm wondering if I should start the fire now. Logically, I'd say now since it'll be too dark when we get back from tribal council, but..." He paused as he glanced up at the sky. "But we only have enough matches to start two more fires. And it looks like it's going to rain again tonight."
"I think we should start the fire anyway." TK replied after pondering over the matter for a couple of seconds. "We need the fire to cook dinner and stay warm. And like you said, it'll be too dark when we come back from tribal council."
"Yeah, that's what I thought." Takuya nodded. He slowly got up his seat and crawled outside of the shelter. "Okay, I'll go start the fire now."
"Wait, Takuya. Wait." TK said, tugging on the Frontier's shirt sleeve. "I need to talk to you. Really quick."
"Alright..." Takuya shot an impatient gaze at the blonde, but smiled nonetheless.
"I'm going to ask you a favour." TK said, phrasing his words in a cautious and timely manner. "I want the two of us to vote out Drew tonight."
"Ah, that sounds kind of interesting!" Takuya grinned. He walked back to the shelter and sat down. "So, you want me to force a tie against Drew?"
"Exactly." TK nodded his head. "He has five votes cast against him. I only have three. Drew will lose the tiebreaker and go home for sure."
"I feel damn good knowing that I cast two of those five votes against him!" Takuya laughed.
"All we need to do is cast two votes against him tonight, and he's gone. Are you in?" TK asked.
"I'm leaning towards yes, but...I don't want to promise you anything yet." Takuya said. His grin slowly faded away as he put on a more serious expression. "I need more time to think about it. It's...it's a huge decision, you know."
"I understand." TK said, biting his lips. He paused for a couple of seconds before he added, "I don't want to look like I'm bribing you or anything, but...here's an extra incentive. I promise I'll bring you to the Final Two if I win the last immunity challenge."
"Seriously?" Takuya raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"I don't break promises, Takuya. If you keep me to the Final Three, I'll bring you to the Final Two." TK said, smiling widely at the athletic Frontier. "Help me to help you."
"That does sweeten the plot a little." Takuya chuckled a little. He drew a heavy sigh and shook his head. "But...but I still can't promise you anything. There are other...other factors as well. It's not just the Final Two."
"Whatever you do, I'll understand." TK said in a conclusive manner.
"Yeah, that means a lot to me," said Takuya.
TK: I did my part. I don't think there's anything more I can do. Now, it's up to Takuya to decide if he wants to shake the game or not. Is he playing to let Drew win in the end? Or is he playing for himself?
Drew emerged from the forest a few minutes later. He just finished his conversation with James and they confirmed about their plans of voting out TK tonight. By the time he came back to spy on Takuya, the blonde was already out of sight. Takuya was left alone in the dining area, attempting to ignite the campfire with a soggy match. Drew approached him with caution.
"Takuya..." Drew began, "How are you?"
"I'm okay." Takuya responded in a dispassionate manner.
"Have you thought about the vote tonight?" Drew asked. He squatted next to Takuya, bringing himself closer to the athletic Frontier. "Who are you going to vote for?"
"I haven't decided yet." Takuya replied enigmatically.
"I don't know if TK talked with you or not, but I want to pitch in my two cents." Drew said. He turned away to hide his smug smirk from Takuya. "It might put everything into perspective for you."
"Oh yeah?" Takuya said, shooting a dirty glare at Drew.
"A useless Final Two pact is the most TK can offer you." Drew explained, "It's not going to do you any good when you lose to him in a 7-0 vote at the end. Everybody in the jury loves TK. It'd be a clean sweep."
Takuya didn't say anything in response, so Drew continued.
"I know you're a competitive player, Takuya. You play to win first place, not for runner-up. But I can guarantee you that's what you'll get if you go to the finals with TK." Drew said in a matter-of-fact voice. He slowly shook his head to accompany his speech. "On the other hand, you're on an even playing field if you face against James or me."
"Neither of you will take me to the end." Takuya said spitefully. "TK will."
"So what? You might have a two-in-three chance of making it to the Final Two, but your chances of winning the game also drops to zero." Drew shrugged his shoulders. "People might lie, but the numbers don't. And they don't look good for you, Takuya."
"I suppose." Takuya admitted, albeit he sounded a little bitter.
"I can't make the picture any less black and white for you, Takuya. You keep TK around, you're going to lose." Drew said with an arrogant smirk on his face. "It's up to you. Think about it. Are you playing for second place, Takuya?" He paused. "Or are you playing to win?"
"Give me time to think about it." Takuya muttered. It was unintentionally turning into his most overused line of the day.
Takuya: I'm not sure what I should do tonight. On the short term, it looks like I'm better off keeping TK around. He won't pose much of a threat in the next challenge, and even if he did win, he promised he'll take me to the Final Two. But then, I look at the game from a long term perspective and I...I realize that I can't win against TK in the end. I'll make it far, but I won't win.
There was a lopsided smile on Takuya's boyish face. He paused his confessional to scratch his head.
Takuya: Anyway, it kind of sucks that I'm put in this position. Someone is not going to like me after tonight. Oh well, I'm used to it. Welcome to my crappy life.
- - -
Professor Birch felt like tribal council arrived too soon. Normally, the players had three days to reach a decision for the vote. But once the game hit Final Four, the dramatic tribal council process sped up so that one person was voted off each night. During the last three days, the game would get extremely hectic. Some temporary alliances would form as quickly as they disbanded. The professor was actually glad that he sat on the other side of tribal council, as opposed to competing in the cutthroat atmosphere of the Clamperl. He watched the worried expressions on Drew and TK's faces and smirked. Professor Birch cannot imagine the flood of emotions that flowed through these two men felt tonight.
"Welcome to your thirteenth tribal council, players." Professor Birch said, greeting the tribe with his usual enthusiastic smile. "We'll now bring in the members of the jury."
Cassidy led the small group of five. She was followed closely by JP, Casey, Rika and the most recent member of the jury – May.
"JP looks out of place as the only guy on the jury." Professor Birch said with a teasing smile. JP grinned and raised his hand triumphantly in the air. "Takuya, you started the game on Gorebyss, which was supposed to be a woman's tribe. So, what do you think about the Final Four right here, consisting of just four guys?"
"Dude, I think it's a little screwed up." Takuya laughed. "But no, seriously...this hasn't been an issue for me. I never thought of the game as a...you know, a boy-versus-girl thing. I know we started the game this way, but the gender wars kind of dissolved along the way."
"We had other things to worry about," James added with a cheeky smile.
"How about tribal lines? Did they dissolve as well?" Professor Birch asked. "TK, at this point of the game, how loyal are you to your original tribe?"
"I don't think it matters at this point, professor." TK replied, "There are three of us from the original Huntail tribe, but we won't be voting for the same person tonight."
"That's partly because the lone member from the original Gorebyss tribe won the immunity necklace." Professor Birch said, gesturing towards a grinning Takuya. "So, how vulnerable would you be if you aren't wearing that necklace, Takuya?"
"Hey, I tell you what. My ass was on the line, so I'd be a goner if I didn't win immunity." Takuya shrugged his shoulders.
"Drew, what about you? You came so close at the last challenge, but Takuya barely beat you for the win." Professor Birch said, turning to face the Pokemon Coordinator. "As a result, you're not wearing the necklace tonight. How vulnerable do you feel?"
"I don't think I'm safe." Drew said, looking somewhat miffed that the professor reopened his wounds about his loss. "It could be me going home tonight."
"Why should your tribe members keep you around?" Professor Birch asked.
"I've made a few enemies in the jury." Drew said as his eyes met with May, who was sitting across from him. Her emotionless face did not react at his response. Feeling uncomfortable, Drew quickly averted his gaze elsewhere. "They might have a good chance of winning if they go up against me in the finals."
"TK, same question." Professor Birch said. "Give me a reason why your tribe members shouldn't vote you out tonight."
"I...suck at challenges." TK laughed nervously. "I probably won't win the endurance challenge if I'm still here tomorrow. If...uh, if they keep me in the Final Three, they've one less competitor to worry about. So, they'll have a better chance of winning that final immunity."
"James?" Professor Birch asked.
"I don't really know." James said, shrugging his shoulders. "May be it's not in their best interests to vote me out now." He paused, not looking satisfied with his answer so far. "I mean, I think I work hard and I contribute to the tribe. That's why they should keep me around."
"Fair enough." Professor Birch nodded his head. "Okay, it's time to vote. Takuya has the immunity necklace, so you cannot cast a vote against him tonight. TK, you can go first."
TK walked up to the voting shrine with a shaky demeanour. Once he arrived, he picked up the marker to write Drew's name neatly on the parchment.
"I'm sorry, but you're the only person who I can beat in a tiebreaker. It's nothing personal. I hope we can stay friends outside of the game."
The next person to vote was Drew. Unsurprisingly, he cast a vote against his former ally, TK.
"Nice guys don't finish last, they finish in fourth place. You're too much of a threat to face in the jury, and that's why I'm voting you out. I would've kept you around for another day, but Takuya's win sealed your fate. You've been a worthy competitor and a good friend. Hope everything is alright with your leg."
James voted and returned to his seat with little ado.
Finally, it was Takuya's turn. The athletic Frontier took a deep breath before he stood up from his seat. He avoided making eye contact with any of the players, hoping that it would lessen the pressure of the vote tonight. When he arrived at the shrine, he felt a moment of hesitation as he picked up the marker. Even now, he doubted if he was making the right decision tonight. Both men had made their pitches to Takuya, but he could only grant one of their wishes. Somebody would leave this game feeling some bitter resentment towards him, but that can't be prevented. Voting people off was part of the game, whether he liked it or not.
At last, Takuya wrote down a name.
- - -
"Once the votes have been read, the person voted off will be asked to leave tribal council area immediately." Professor Birch declared. "I'll now read the votes."
Professor Birch put his hand in the voting urn and pulled out the first vote. He unfolded the parchment and turned it over.
The usual arrogant expression on Drew's face was replaced by an uncharacteristic tenseness. The muscles in his body strained when the Pokemon Coordinator read his name on the parchment. He knew if he saw his name at this tribal council one more time, his game was over. As much as Drew prided himself in his crafty manipulation, Takuya had always been an unpredictable wildcard. It would not surprise Drew if Takuya voted him out to get the last laugh.
Professor Birch drew out the second vote.
"TK." Professor Birch said, "That's one vote Drew and one vote TK."
TK pressed his lips together at the sight of his name. He anxiously turned his head towards Takuya, hoping to catch some sort of signal from the Frontier's expression. But Takuya's gaze was fixed sternly on the professor. TK cannot tell from the Frontier's enigmatic face whether or not he voted for Drew tonight.
Professor Birch pulled out the next vote.
"The third vote," Professor Birch said dramatically before he turned the parchment over. "TK."
James recognized his writing on the parchment. He turned around to flash a faint smile at Drew, but it faded away when he noticed the tense expression on Drew's face. Watching Drew, who was normally so calm and compose, act so antsy made James feel grateful for his position in the game. He was relieved that his name didn't appear at this tribal council, even though he had been just as vulnerable as Drew or TK tonight. If James had been in Drew or TK's shoes tonight, he might have fainted from the suspense!
"I'll now read the last vote," said the professor.
Professor Birch pulled out the final vote from the urn. He unfolded the parchment, glanced at it, and took a deep breath.
"The thirteenth person voted out of Survivor: Dewford Islands," Professor Birch declared as he turned over the vote. "TK."
A guilt-ridden Takuya immediately leaned over and whispered a muffled apology to TK. The gracious blonde smiled politely at the Frontier, nodding his head as if to accept his fate. It was a forgiving smile, one that bore no grudges or bad feelings towards his tribe members for their decision. TK understood why he was voted off tonight.
"TK, the tribe has spoken." Professor Birch said as the blonde walked over with his torch. The professor quickly snuffed the weakly lit flame. "It's time for you to go."
TK raised his arm to wave a final farewell to Clamperl. His former tribe members watched the blonde march into the forest until his body vanished amongst the darkness.
"We have our Final Three. You've made it to a part of the game where thirteen others failed to do." Professor Birch announced. "Good job for making it this far, but you still have two more days to go. You'll need plenty of rest for your final immunity challenge tomorrow. Good night, Clamperl."
As James rose from his seat, he caught a brief glimpse of the expressions amongst the five jury members. None of them looked pleased with the results tonight. In particular, JP was absolutely devastated that the blonde was now out of the game. Judging by their disgruntled reactions, it seemed more than obvious that TK Takaishi had been the jury's favourite all along. They were rooting for the friendly and persistent player to do the impossible and take home the win. Now, they were left with the three jerks who voted him out. Worst of all, they had to choose a winner amongst these three!
James did genuinely admire TK as a person and a player. He had tremendous respect for the blonde who prevailed longer than anybody's expectations. Still, James couldn't help but rejoice silently over TK's departure. He was feeling ecstatic. This wasn't a malicious reaction as much as it was an enlightening realization, because TK's demise meant only one thing to James.
His chances of winning just got a little higher.
- - -
TK's Final Words
Fourth place is nothing to be ashamed of. For a guy with an injured leg, I think fourth place is not bad at all! I mean, I made it farther in the game than I ever imagined. The journey hasn't always been easy, but I learned a lot of things about myself. I really got out of my comfort zone. I pushed my limits and I challenged myself to do things that I would never experience in my ordinary life.
Overall, Dewford Islands is an amazing place. I'm really going to miss waking up to the beautiful scenery every morning. But I'll also tell you what I won'tmiss about this island. It's those stupid bears. If I ever see another bear in my life, it would be way too soon!
- - -
Drew thought he was hallucinating when he smelled food this morning. Not just any food, but it was the unfamiliar scent of scrambled eggs and bacon that awakened him from his slumber. The confused Pokemon Coordinator looked around the camp, trying to locate the origin of the smell. Naturally, he turned his head towards the dining area. It was there he saw a young bearded man sitting by himself. Still feeling weary, it took Drew a couple of seconds before he identified that person as Professor Birch.
"Professor?" Drew muttered. "What the..."
The professor caught Drew's gaze and grinned toothily. He waved one arm in the air as a greeting. Drew waved back, although he looked even more confused than ever.
"Wake everyone up! I have a surprise for all of you!" Professor Birch shouted.
Drew nodded his head as he turned around. Takuya was lying nearby, snoring loudly. However, James was nowhere to be found in the shelter. Drew tapped Takuya's shoulder lightly, but the athletic Frontier remained motionless.
"Come on. Wake up." Drew grunted impatiently. He pushed Takuya's shoulder with a little more force. "We have a guest."
Takuya mumbled something unintelligible and went back to sleep.
"I brought you guys food!" Professor Birch shouted.
"Hmm? Wha...what food?" Takuya groaned, slowly pulling his body up from the floor. "Did you say something about food?"
"Yeah, the professor is right there with our breakfast." Drew smirked.
"I can smell...sausages." Takuya muttered groggily. He pinched himself in the cheeks. "I'm not dreaming, am I?"
"Come over here before the food gets cold!" Professor Birch shouted.
The professor picked up a piece of toast from a plate. He waved it in the air for Takuya and Drew to see.
"Eggs, bacon, sausages, potatoes and toast!" Professor Birch exclaimed, "Guys, it's all yours!"
"Oh god, I must be dreaming." Takuya shrieked in giddiness. He lied back down on the floor, burying his hands over his face. "No way this can be real! No freakin' way!"
Takuya: Fooooood! That's what I was screaming in my head when I first saw Professor Birch in our camp. He shows up out of nowhere to give us a tiny piece of heaven. And when I say heaven, I mean breakfast deluxe!
Takuya grinned. He patted his hand over his stomach in satisfaction.
Takuya: Everything tasted...so...damn...good! Man, if only every morning started like this one!
Takuya and Drew quickly made their way to the dining area, where they sat next to Professor Birch on the log. When they arrived, they could see there were three large plates neatly laid out on the ground. Each of them contained a lavish and luxurious breakfast, accompanied by a glass of orange juice on the side. Professor Birch looked up at the two men with an impish smile. He could almost see the drool leaking out of the two men's mouths.
"Is...is the food for us?" Takuya asked.
"They certainly are. Dig in!" Professor Birch grinned.
Takuya instantly dug into his food like a mad and starving savage, grabbing various items from the plate with his hands and shoving them into his mouth. Drew remained more civilized, choosing to use the provided utensils to eat his breakfast.
"Mmmmm..." Takuya mumbled in a garbled voice. A small piece of bacon dropped out of his full mouth as he spoke, but he caught it with his hand. Seconds later, he put the bacon back into his mouth. "So good!"
"Take your time, Takuya. We have all day." Professor Birch said.
"It tastes even better if you take your time to enjoy it," added Drew.
"Tell that to my stomach!" Takuya laughed. He took a huge sip of his orange juice and sighed. "This feels right. This feels so right."
Professor Birch smiled, looking slightly embarrassed. He shifted his gaze to the empty shelter straight ahead. It was messy and disorganized with clothes and belongings scattered everywhere on the floor, just as he had expected.
"So, where did James go?" Professor Birch asked.
"He's not..." Drew paused. He turned his head to examine the shelter one more time before continuing his reply. "He's not in the shelter."
"The boat isn't here either," said Takuya. "Do you think he took it and went off somewhere? Fishing, may be?"
"That's probably it." Drew nodded his head.
"I see. Well, that can't be helped." Professor Birch shrugged his shoulders. "James can eat his breakfast when he gets back."
Takuya glanced at the third plate on the ground with a hint of contemplation in his eyes. He slowly nodded his head to the professor's words, but his gaze was still fixated on James' meal.
"What's the occasion, professor? Why are you here?" Drew asked.
"I want to inform you about your immunity challenge this afternoon." Professor Birch replied with a gentle smile. "And I'm here to bring you a little nutrition before that happens. You've a long day ahead of you."
"Much appreciated," said Drew.
"Are you guys feeling confident about today?" Professor Birch asked.
"Oh yeah!" Takuya laughed. He and Drew glanced at each other, nodding their heads. "We have to feel confident...or we're screwed."
"If I make it this far in the game and lose here, it'd be a huge blow to my ego." Drew added.
"Mine too." Takuya said.
"Well, I wish you guys the best of luck." Professor Birch said. He extended his hand to Takuya for a handshake, but the professor wisely retracted it a few seconds later when he realized Takuya had been eating with his hands. "I'll see you later today."
"Bye, professor!" Takuya shouted. "Thanks for the grub!"
Drew: I'm glad that Professor Birch paid us a visit this morning. He reminded me that I've a crucial challenge ahead of me. The breakfast is only secondary to the immunity challenge. If the wrong person wins immunity today, it could break my entire game. Everything that I've worked up until now would be futile.
Despite the distressful situation, there was still an air of calmness in Drew's nonchalant expression. He looked serious and relaxed at the same time.
Drew: Ideally, I want James to win the final challenge and vote out Takuya. That'll make James look even more of a backstabber in Takuya's eyes. Bad for James, but good for me.
Drew flashed a conceited smirk to the cameras.
Drew: But I know better than to rely on luck, just like how I can't rely on James to win that final immunity. I need to think fast and act fast in case my plans go haywire. In that case, the seeds I plant in Takuya's head will come in handy...
"James doesn't know what he's missing out. This stuff is delicious!" Takuya said as he chewed on his toast. He swallowed a mouthful of food before he continued speaking again. "Where is that guy anyway?"
"He's your friend. You should know," said Drew. He watched Takuya's reaction very carefully.
"James is not my friend. Not anymore." Takuya was quick to correct the Coordinator's words. "I don't have any friends in this tribe. You voted them all out."
Thank you. Drew thought, smirking smugly.
"It's not easy for me either. My friends are gone too." Drew grumbled.
"You had friends!?" Takuya exclaimed in dramatized shock. Drew shot Takuya a spiteful glare, but the cheeky Frontier dismissed it with a playful grin. "I'm kidding! I'm kidding!"
"You can be so blunt sometimes." Drew said, sounding a little annoyed.
"But I speak the truth!" Takuya laughed.
"You're right though. I don't have a lot of friends in real life either." Drew admitted, wearing a sad smile on his face. "And the few friends that I made in the last few weeks...they'll probably never want to speak to me again after the game."
"Yeah, I think so too! I mean...you did screw them over pretty badly! Is there someone in your alliance that you didn't backstab?" Takuya chuckled.
"TK and JP probably hate my guts right now. May too, I bet." Drew sighed. "That's three members of the jury right there."
"I don't recall Rika being a huge fan of you either." Takuya said as an off-hand remark.
"I'm pretty unpopular in the game, aren't I?" Drew laughed.
"Yeah, I wouldn't want to be in your shoes...that's for sure!" Takuya laughed. He patted Drew on the back to comfort the Coordinator. "Don't worry though. They hate me more. Way more!"
"The jury will rip us apart if we're in the Final Two." Drew said carefully, although he was trying to sound as casual as possible. "They'll be forced to pick the lesser of two evils."
"They'll be really pissed off if that happens." Takuya grinned. "We'd be the most unlikable Final Two ever!"
"And yet, that possibility doesn't sound so farfetched at all." Drew muttered. He glanced at Takuya with a crafty smile. "Am I right, Takuya?"
"Hey, anything can happen in this game." Takuya shrugged his shoulders.
"I agree." Drew nodded his head, smirking. "Think about it when you're competing in the challenge today. You might be pleasantly surprised what an open mind can do for you..."
- - -
James woke up early this morning, so he decided to watch the sunrise on Shipwreck Island by himself.
He found a shady spot on the island and made himself comfortable. Surrounding him were hundreds of Seels, most of them lying lazily on their blubbery fat as they sleep. In his typical life, this spectacle would literally translate to a goldmine for Team Rocket, who would try to steal as many Pokemon here as possible. But currently, James had no desire to do anything except to enjoy the serenity of this island. Every now and then, he needed a rare moment of solidity to himself. This was the time for him to reflect his thoughts in the past, the present, and the future.
In a few days, James would return to his old lifestyle as a Team Rocket member. But he did not know if he looked forward to it or not.
On one hand, he was thrilled at the prospect of reuniting with his friends again. He missed going on the zany adventures. He missed practicing the latest Team Rocket motto. He even missed the daily routine of getting blasted off by those annoying twerps. But along with the fun and glamorous side of his old life came the ugliness and misery. James did not look forward to returning to a life of poverty. It was a pessimistic and depressing life where he barely had money to purchase food everyday. It was also a life where he lacked any direction, achievement or success. It was a life of constant failure.
In society, failure was imminent for those who did not have money. James experienced this the hard way during the years he spent in Team Rocket. An old saying once said that money could not buy somebody happiness. James disagreed with that belief. He knew that winning the million dollars in this game could change his life drastically. It will transform him into a happier man. Or at least, the money will make his life look less of a bumbling mess.
James: Win the game, win the money. That became my new temporary motto for the last few weeks. I've a rough journey so far and I don't know what lies ahead of me. What's going to happen to my life if I win the million dollars? And what's going to happen if I don't win? Well, I figure that Jessie and Meowth will kill me if I lose, but they'll get over it...eventually. Hey, I don't blame them. It's not everyday that we've a chance of winning a million dollars!
James smiled timidly at the cameras. He let out a soft and gentle chuckle.
James: Sometimes, I think I worry too much about the past and the future. What I need to do is focus on the present.
The smile on his face grew wider.
James: What's important to me right now is to make it to the Final Two. I don't have high hopes if I can win against either Takuya or Drew, but uh...win or lose, I'll be okay. I'm proud of myself for making it this far regardless of how I rank. But of course, I'd really love to win this game!
A few hours later, James returned to mainland. Having sorted out the conflicting thoughts in his head, he felt more relaxed, as if a heavy burden had been removed from his shoulders. The soothing trip to Shipwreck Island was exactly what he needed to refresh his morale. Now, James was prepared to jump back into game mode again. Or he would have been, but there was one problem that troubled James' conscience – one big problem that came in the form of Takuya Kanbara.
When James first joined Gorebyss on Day 13, he and Takuya became instant friends. For some reason, James found it extremely easy to get along with Takuya, whom many people considered to be toooverbearing or tooobnoxious. He could not describe their connection other than the fact that they clicked. James was just thankful to have met somebody like Takuya, a loyal friend who always had James' back and always included James in his plans.
But in the past week, James had lost Takuya's trust, again and again. He voted out Rika, who was supposed to be a trustworthy ally and a devoted friend. He also voted out May, even after Takuya begged him not to vote her out. It was as if James stabbed Takuya in the same wound twice. Only now did James realize that he might have lost Takuya's trust – and his friendship – forever.
"Takuya..." James muttered uneasily. He could see the athletic Frontier some distance away. James was not sure if his imagination was playing tricks on him or not, but Takuya seemed to be jogging towards him.
"There you are!" Takuya said, "We were looking for you."
"You were?" James asked with his eyebrows raised in surprise.
"We have to go to the immunity challenge soon," explained Takuya. "We didn't know where you were."
"I was on Shipwreck Island. I've been there since I woke up," said James.
"I see." Takuya said nonchalantly. He paused for a moment before adding, "By the way, the professor came by. He left you some breakfast to eat before the challenge."
"Oh...oh, that's great. Th...thanks." James nodded his head in an awkward manner.
"So yeah." Takuya muttered. He folded his arms across his chest. "That's it."
An uneasy silence passed between Takuya and James for a couple of seconds. James shifted his feet nervously on the ground. He lowered his head, avoiding any type of eye contact with the Frontier. Eventually, Takuya turned his back on James and began walking away. He only took a few steps before James called out for him again.
"Takuya!" James cried, sounding somewhat desperate in his voice.
Takuya stopped walking, but he did not turn around.
"I don't...I don't want to see us act like this. We talk to each other like we're strangers." James said.
There was no response from Takuya. After a few seconds, Takuya began walking away again. James, feeling frustrated, chased after the Frontier.
"I know I've betrayed you. And I know I've been a coward to you...and to Rika. But I...I'm sorry. I only want you to understand...how hard this is for me. I'm so sorry," whimpered James. "I know I've been a horrible friend."
The Frontier continued walking.
"I just want to ask you one question. Please." James gulped. His voice had been dwindled to a soft and raspy whisper. "Is there any hope of saving our friendship?"
Takuya sighed softly. He slowed down his steps until he came to an abrupt stop. He turned around and flashed a polite smile at the Team Rocket member.
"I think...we can be friends outside of this game." Takuya replied vaguely.
"Y...yes?" James asked, looking hopeful.
"You're not a bad person, James. Stop saying that about yourself." Takuya continued. The gentle smile on his face began to fade away. "And you're not a coward either."
He turned around.
"But I am."
And he walked away from James.
- - -
Sometimes, it seemed like the Survivor gods hated the Clamperl tribe. Or at least that was what Professor Birch assumed when it began to rain, just minutes before the three players arrived on the beach for their final immunity challenge. If the inopportune weather was a symbolic signal sent from the Survivor gods, then their message was clear. They wanted to inflict as much suffering to the players during the challenge as possible. Whoever wins the final immunity will have to really work for it.
"Welcome," Professor Birch greeted the three men with a reluctant smile. "The challenge hasn't begun yet and you're already drenched from head to toe."
"At least we won't be thirsty." Takuya grinned.
"First things first, I need the immunity necklace." Professor Birch said as he received the necklace from Takuya. "For the last time in this game, immunity is back up for grabs."
Professor Birch hanged the immunity necklace on a wooden pedestal. He turned around and faced the Clamperl tribe.
"The final immunity challenge is a test of willpower. How much do you want to win immunity? Let's find out." Professor Birch said, "You will raise your arms in the air behind your head. Your hands will then be tied together with a rope. This flimsy piece of rope is attached to a pail of water – or in this case, rainwater – hanging above your head. It will not fall unless you give up and drop your arms. If it does fall, you're eliminated from the challenge."
He paused dramatically in the middle of his explanation.
"The last person standing will win immunity." Professor Birch said, smiling. "That person will not only be in the Final Two, but they'll get to decide who they're bringing along with them. It's a very powerful position to be in." The smile on his face grew wider. "And whether or not you get this power is up to you and your willpower."
"And how strong our arms are," added Drew mordantly.
Professor Birch instructed the three players to stand behind an individual pole. On top of every pole, there was a bucket of water, which was attached to the players' hands by a rope. Professor Birch made sure all of the players tied the rope to their hands tightly and properly. Once all the necessary procedures were completed, he stepped back and smiled at the three players.
"Survivors ready?" Professor Birch said, "The challenge starts now..."
"I'm just letting you guys know, I'm not giving up." Takuya turned to face James and Drew, who were both on his left. He grinned cheekily at the two men. "So, quit now and give us all a break."
"You wish." Drew scoffed.
"I'm not giving up either." James said. The Team Rocket member was standing in between Takuya and Drew. "But good luck, guys. May the best man win."
- - -
An hour passed by without much commotion. The rain continued pouring, but the men were used to it by now. Takuya tried engaging the other players in conversation, jokes, and even songs. But he got back little reception from James or Drew, who were both trying to concentrate on this challenge as much as possible.
"Damn. If I know it was going to rain, I would've worn something more..." Takuya muttered to himself.
"You know what they say, Takuya. Less is more!" Professor Birch joked. He was standing under a large beach umbrella, observing the challenge as a spectator from afar.
Clad in only a pair of khaki shorts, Takuya was regretting his decision to dress so sparsely in this challenge. He didn't even wear a t-shirt. At first, he thought this was the appropriate attire for an endurance challenge, since he did not want to be stuck wearing a sweaty shirt for hours. On hindsight, it was a horrible mistake. Takuya expected the entire afternoon to be sizzling hot, but he was obviously wrong.
To his left, he could see that Drew was wearing a bright yellow raincoat. The hood of his coat covered over Drew's head, sheltering him somewhat from the heavy rainfall. The Pokemon Coordinator wisely predicted from the grey skies this morning that it would rain today, so he came to this challenge prepared. Takuya cursed himself for not thinking in advance.
"Good job, players. You've just reach the one hour mark." Professor Birch announced.
"Whoo! Go us!" Takuya hollered in excitement. He turned his head towards the two other men. "Tired yet, guys?"
James gave a small nod of head, but Drew's ignored Takuya's question completely.
"Drew! Hey, don't be so rude! I'm talking to you, dude!" Takuya shouted. "Can you even hear me under that stupid raincoat!? Oh...you didn't fall asleep, did ya?"
Drew still didn't respond back. He just closed his eyes, choosing to ignore his surroundings so he could concentrate on the competition. This way, he could block out the rain, block out his fatigue, and block out Takuya's loud and aggravating voice.
"Drew!" Takuya screamed obnoxiously. "Can you hear me, Drew!?"
Drew sighed. He could sense Takuya's voice grating on his nerves. It was clear to him what the conniving Frontier was trying to do. Takuya was acting obnoxious in order to provoke a reaction from Drew, causing the Pokemon Coordinator to lose his composure and lose the challenge. And Drew hated to admit this, but it was actually working. Takuya was on his way to annoy Drew out of the endurance challenge.
As ridiculous as it might sound, enduring Takuya would be the biggest challenge of them all.
- - -
Drew did not open his eyes again until another twenty minutes passed by. By then, it had finally stopped raining, but Takuya had not stopped talking – or singing cheesy nursery rhymes, for that matter.
"Rain, rain, go away..." Takuya sang in an off-pitched voice. "Come again some other day..."
Ignoring the goggle-head, Drew turned his head to look at James. The Team Rocket member seemed like he was struggling in this challenge. It was evident through the pained expression that he wore on his face. After standing in the rain for ninety minutes, James felt wet, cold and exhausted. He didn't look like he enjoyed this challenge one bit.
"So, how are you guys doing?" Professor Birch asked. He glanced at James and smiled faintly. "James, you don't look so well."
"My arms are aching," complained James.
"Watch out there...you're shaking a little." Professor Birch warned.
"My hands are like...numb." James sighed unhappily, "I can't even feel my fingers."
Professor Birch nodded his head and turned towards Drew. The Pokemon Coordinator closed his eyes and disregarded the professor. He did not want to lose his focus. Professor Birch was just about to say something when he was suddenly interrupted by Takuya's voice.
"Hey, professor! Come over here!" Takuya shouted.
"What is it?" Professor Birch asked as he walked towards Takuya.
"There's an annoying itch on my left shoulder." Takuya grinned cheekily. "Can you get rid of it for me?"
"No can do, Takuya." Professor Birch laughed. "If you want, you can always quit the challenge and..."
"No, thank you. I'll pass on that one." Takuya shook his head. The grin on his face grew even wider. "I won't give up."
"Okay then." Professor Birch shrugged his shoulders. "Let's see how long the three of you can hold up."
- - -
It was nearly two hours since the challenge first started, but all three players were still in the competition. Takuya tapped his foot impatiently on the ground. This was getting boring.
He glanced over to his left to examine his competitors. On the farthest end, Drew was standing very still, his head tilted down and his eyes were shut. Takuya could not recall if Drew had spoken since the challenge started. Then again, Drew was never a very talkative person. He was a man of few words.
Standing beside Drew was a less composed James. Takuya noticed that the Team Rocket member's strength was faltering. James moved his body a lot lately as he tried to find a comfortable position on his feet. A few times, he swung his body a little too much and the pail of water above him looked like it would tip over. But it did not happen yet. Still, Takuya did not worry too much about James. He didn't look like he could hold on any longer.
"Players, you've made it two hours into the challenge." Professor Birch announced.
"It feels like two decades," joked James.
"I'm getting kind of hungry." Takuya grinned cheekily. He licked his tongue over his lips. "Do you have lunch for us, professor?"
"I do, but I'm not going to feed you." Professor Birch teased, "You'll have to come over here and get it."
"Come on, professor! Don't make this so hard on us!" Takuya exclaimed.
"They don't call it an endurance challenge for nothing, Takuya." Professor Birch said, smiling gently at the Frontier. "You're supposed to..."
Drew opened his eyes in alarm. Somebody was out of the challenge!
He immediately turned to his right, hoping to see Takuya drenched from head to toe. Instead, it was James whose entire body was soaked in water. His hands were no longer in the air. They were resting somewhere on his knees. Above James' head, the pail of water was tipped over on its side. This signified James' elimination from the challenge.
"James is out!" Professor Birch announced. He ran over to the Team Rocket member and untied the rope from his hands. "I've a towel under the umbrella. You can dry yourself over there."
"Thanks." James mumbled dejectedly.
Drew stared at the Team Rocket member for a while, hoping to send some sort of message to his ally. But James never looked his way. He turned his back on Takuya and Drew, perhaps out of shame. Or perhaps he did it out of a guilty conscience. Perhaps James did not want Drew to see the remorse he felt for dropping out of the challenge on purpose.
No, James won't do that. Drew thought to himself. He tried going over possible rationales for James to lose this challenge. James won't deliberately lose this challenge. He won't benefit anything. Not...not unless he has made a deal with Takuya. But no, he won't do that!
Drew sighed softly under his breath. He could never be certain. He didn't know if James' elimination was intentional or accidental, but it did not matter anymore. James was now out of the challenge, leaving Drew to compete against Takuya in a one-on-one showdown. The fate of Drew's game now rested in his own hands. If he wanted to make it to the Final Two with James, he would have to earn it himself.
"It's down to two people – Takuya versus Drew!" Professor Birch announced. "One of you two will win immunity today." He stopped his sentence to insert a dramatic pause. "Who wants it more?"
- - -
Another hour quickly passed by. Drew was beginning to feel the fatigue take its tow on his body. Physically, he felt like he was on the verge of giving in. One strong breeze and he would be knocked over like a house of cards. His arms felt sore and his legs were aching. Lifting his arms in the air was not as easy as it sounded, especially since the slightest movement could cause the bucket of water to tumble from above. Sometimes, all it took was one untimely sneeze and the challenge could be over.
"Excuse me." Takuya muttered.
Drew swiftly turned his head towards Takuya. The Frontier was still dry. False alarm.
"You sound like you're a bit under the weather, Takuya." Professor Birch said.
"You try standing in the rain for over an hour. Let's see how you do." Takuya wrinkled his nose. He flashed a confident smirk at the professor. "Don't worry about me. I'll be fine."
As the conversation between Professor Birch and Takuya trailed off elsewhere, Drew turned his head away. He could not afford to be distracted by one of Takuya's many zany antics. In order for Drew to win this challenge, he must invest his full concentration in the competition. What he lacked in upper body strength, Drew made it up by his unrelenting willpower and determination to win the game. It was his tremendous mental strength that kept Drew going in this challenge.
Takuya sneezed again.
Once again, Drew turned his head to look at Takuya. The athletic Frontier had not moved at all. It was another false alarm.
However, it made Drew feel slightly better to know that Takuya was struggling as much as he was. Even though Takuya put on a strong façade in this challenge, Drew was beginning to see the cracks in his shield. It was only a matter of time before Takuya would drop out of this challenge. Drew could sense it.
"Are you sure you're okay, Takuya?" Professor Birch asked. He sounded more concerned in his voice than the previous time.
"Oh yeah, I'm like a pillar of strength!" Takuya grinned.
He's going to drop. He's being too careless. Drew thought to himself. He smiled impishly as he watched the athletic Frontier's body slowly lean towards the left.
"Nothing can bring me down!" Takuya added.
Drop it, Takuya! Drop it! Drew chanted inside his head. He gritted his teeth in silent anxiety. Drop it already!
In his frustration, Drew accidentally shifted his feet forward, causing him to stumble. As he tried to regain his balance, he tripped over a small rock on the ground. He fell backwards as he yanked the rope down with his hands. SPLASSSSSSH! Drew could feel the water poured over his stomach. He was out. The challenge was over.
"Drew is out!" Professor Birch announced excitedly. "Takuya wins immunity!"
"Yesssssssss!" Takuya screamed. He shook his fists triumphantly in the air, causing the bucket of water to pour over his head. "Yeah! Hell yeah!"
"Good job, Takuya," said James.
"For the third time in a row, you've won immunity." Professor Birch laughed. He walked over to the Frontier and removed the rope from his hands. Then, he placed the immunity necklace over Takuya's neck. Takuya beamed with joy.
"I...I've made it into the Final Two. Wow. Just...just wow!" Takuya chuckled in disbelief.
"Congratulations, Takuya! You deserved this, you really did." Professor Birch said, patting Takuya on the shoulder. The professor turned to Drew and James with a sad smile. "You've a huge decision ahead of you, young man. Not only are you in the Final Two, but you will get to decide who sits next to you tomorrow night."
"I know who I'm voting out." Takuya grinned.
"Takuya, do...do you remember what I told you earlier today?" Drew asked as he walked over to Takuya. Out of sheer politeness, the two of them shook hands, even though the gesture felt very insincere. "You should keep an open mind for tonight."
"Like I said, I've already made up my mind." Takuya smirked smugly.
"Open mind, Takuya." Drew repeated. He stared into Takuya's eyes with a mixture of desperation and helplessness in his gaze. "Keep an open mind."
Takuya shrugged his shoulders. He flashed an enigmatic smile at both Drew and James.
Somebody didn't know it yet, but their fate in this game had already been sealed.
- - -
"Welcome to tribal council, players." Professor Birch said, "I'll now bring in the members of our jury."
With Cassidy leading the pack, the six jurors solemnly entered tribal council. They sat down on the benches across from the three players. None of them looked particularly happy.
"Tonight, one more person will be voted out, thus completing our jury of seven." Professor Birch said, "James, how confident do you feel about tonight's vote? You're so close to the Final Two. Are you going to make it?"
"I don't feel confident at all." James replied nervously. He tilted his head to his left. "I...uh, I think I've a fifty-fifty chance of making it to the Final Two, but the ultimate decision lies in Takuya's hands."
"Drew, what about you?" Professor Birch asked. "Do you feel confident that you'll be sitting next to Takuya tomorrow night?"
"It's hard to tell, professor. I'd like to keep my chin up regardless what happens tonight," said Drew.
"James thinks it's a fifty-fifty decision tonight. Do you think those are accurate odds?" Professor Birch asked.
"Technically, yes." Drew nodded his head. He drew a soft sigh before continuing. "But Takuya said that he had already made up his mind, so..."
Failing to search the right words to finish his answer, Drew just shrugged his shoulders and laughed.
"Takuya, you're in a very powerful position tonight. Now, you're definitely going to be in the Final Two no matter what." Professor Birch said, shifting his body so he would face towards the Frontier. "But how confident are you that you're making the right decision tonight? How do you know you're voting out the right person?"
"It's a gut feeling, but I still feel confident about my decision." Takuya said with a boyish grin. "As for whether or not it's the right decision, I think only time will tell."
"Gentlemen, this is your last chance to pitch your case to Takuya. Why should he keep you around over the other person?" Professor Birch said, "Drew, I'll start with you."
"Takuya should bring me to the finals because he has a better chance of winning against me." Drew explained in a calm and composed manner. "Plus, he knows that if he brings James to the Final Two, Takuya won't be getting my vote for the win. My jury vote is going to James."
"So, you're threatening me with your jury vote?" Takuya asked impudently.
"You make it sound like I'm holding a gun beside your head." Drew chuckled. "I'm not threatening you, Takuya. I'm just offering you another perspective." He paused as a smarmy smirk crawled over the Coordinator's face. "The endgame is all about jury votes. And I can guarantee Takuya that he won't get a lot of those if he takes James to the Final Two."
"What about you, James?" Professor Birch asked.
"If Takuya has already made up his mind, nothing I say will be able to change it." James shrugged his shoulders. He turned to Takuya and smiled faintly at the Frontier. "So, do whatever you want."
"Okay, it's time to vote. Since James and Drew cannot vote for Takuya, their votes cancel each other out. There's no need for them to vote." Professor Birch explained, "Takuya will cast the sole deciding vote tonight."
Takuya nodded his head. Just as he was about to get up from his seat, he was interrupted by a sudden question from the professor.
"Takuya, before you go to vote, I have one last question." Professor Birch asked. "Are you voting based on personal reasons or strategic reasons?"
"It's strictly strategic." Takuya replied with no hesitation. "Nothing personal."
- - -
After Takuya cast his vote, he returned to his seat with a lopsided smile on his face. A few jurors tried studying his expression for some hint to the outcome, but Takuya was a closed book like always.
"I'll go get the vote," said Professor Birch.
Drew and James exchanged pessimistic glances with each other. It was not a good night for the two of them. Neither man intended to compete against Takuya in the Final Two, but their original plans were foiled by Takuya's unanticipated victory at the final challenge. And now, one of them won't even make it to the Final Two. Thirty eight days of their hard work and efforts would amount to nothing but an honorary and meaningless title in the game.
Professor Birch returned with the voting urn in his hands. He wore a grim expression on his face.
"The person voted off will be asked to leave tribal council area immediately," said Professor Birch.
James placed his sweaty hands on his knees and grabbed them. He could not predict how Takuya voted, but James anticipated the worst. Inside his head, he kept telling himself to calm down. Nonetheless, James felt extremely nervous, knowing that his destiny in this game was contained inside that one parchment in the voting urn.
Professor Birch put his hand inside the urn. A few seconds later, he pulled out one piece of folded parchment. That was it. It was the deciding vote.
Suddenly, Drew felt a tide of emotion sweeping over his entire body. Not anxiety. It was anger. Drew was angry that his fate had to be determined by an abrasive goggle-head who he had never respected as a player, or even as a person. But Drew felt even more furious at himself, because he lost the immunity challenge to Takuya again. He should be angry at himself for not trying hard enough at the challenge. He should be angry at himself for not stopping Takuya earlier before his long reign of victories. He should be angry at himself for not voting Takuya out when he was given the opportunity.
And now, it was too late. Takuya had all the power. Drew was reduced to nothing but a helpless creature pleading for Takuya's mercy.
But somehow, Drew did not think mercy or luck was on his side tonight.
"The fourteenth person voted out of Survivor: Dewford Islands..." Professor Birch announced, "And the final member of our jury..."
He turned over the parchment.
It took James a couple of seconds for the information to register with his head. Eventually, he accepted his fate with a gracious smile and a casual shrug. As he stood up from his seat, he placed his hand on Takuya's shoulder. He then walked over to Professor Birch and presented him with his torch.
"James, the tribe has spoken." Professor Birch said. He gave a dramatic pause before he extinguished the flame. "It's time for you to go."
James walked straight into the forest without looking back. Seconds later, his figure had already vanished amongst the darkness. And then, he was gone.
"I'd like to congratulate Drew and Takuya for making it to the Final Two. You're two different men who played with two different game styles." Professor Birch smiled faintly at the remaining players of the Clamperl tribe. "No matter what approach you used to get here, the important thing is that you're now one step closer to winning a million dollars. And by tomorrow night, one of you will be crowned as the winner of Survivor: Dewford Islands."
Takuya laughed nervously. Drew, who was still recovering from the outcome, only nodded his head in vague comprehension.
"You've the whole day tomorrow to present your case to the jury in front of you. Why should they give you a million dollars? Why are you the rightful winner of this game?" Professor Birch declared. He stared at the two players with a very serious expression on his face. "Use this time wisely, Clamperl. I'll see you tomorrow night."
At this time tomorrow, a winner will be crowned. The final showdown was between an unrelenting fighter and a ruthless manipulator. Both players encountered a series of vexatious obstacles and overcame a stack of unfavourable odds. And now, their journeys were coming to an end.
Who will be the Sole Survivor?
- - -
James' Final Words
To be honest, I'm disappointed to have made it this far and not go all the way. It's soooooo aggravating! It's like seeing the money being taken away right in front of my eyes. Not that I had a real shot of winning the million dollars anyway. But still, you can't blame a guy for dreaming...
I don't know what I could have done differently in this game. I never expected Takuya to bring me to the Final Two, but I did try patching up our friendship before the vote. It didn't work. At the end of the day, I know who my real friends are, regardless of what happens in this game. Those are the people who I'll take with me for life.
- - -
The last day of Survivor was not what Takuya expected. He was hoping for more of a festive and jubilant atmosphere, or at least some sort of congratulatory pat on the back for making it this far in the game. Instead, all he got was an entire day on the island with the despicable Drew.
On the bright side, Takuya fathomed that his situation could be a lot worse. Optimism was not normally one of his strong points, but he was counting his blessings that he wasn't stuck here with Cassidy on the last day. The mere thought of his vile nemesis sent shivers down Takuya's spine. Unfortunately, he still had to face the intimidating Team Rocket member on the jury one last time before she would disappear from his life forever. A vicious and self-righteous tirade was to be expected from her tonight, but Takuya only hoped that it would be short and painless.
Overall, the jury process was not something Takuya looked forward to. The seven people on the jury would determine who wins the million dollars in the end, but there were few who supported him for the win. Casey would probably follow Cassidy's footsteps and leash out an angry outburst in jury speech, but Takuya always thought of her as an annoying lapdog with little intelligence of her own. He was more intimidated by what he thought James and JP might say to him tonight. Both men used to be Takuya's friends until he stabbed them in the back. Now, Takuya wasn't even sure if he could apply the term 'friend' when he was speaking about James or JP. At least James expected to be voted out during tribal council, but JP never saw his demise coming at all. Takuya did not even have the decency to inform his friend he would be voted out that night.
Despite his unfavourable circumstances, Takuya still maintained an optimistic outlook for tonight. He couldn't afford to feel discouraged. Tonight would be one of the most important nights of his life. One million dollars was at stake, possibly depending on his performance at tribal council. Takuya Kanbara had to bring his best game to the table.
Takuya: I'm here...in the Final Two...and one step away from winning a million dollars. Unbelievable! Just a few weeks ago, I was a marked man who had no shot in hell of winning this thing. It just goes to show you that even a crazy guy like me can win this game. Anything could happen!
Takuya adjusted the goggles on his forehead as he spoke. There was a cheeky grin on his boyish face.
Takuya: Last night, I voted James out. It was probably the hardest decision in the past thirty nine days. I'm not sure if I've a better chance of winning against Drew, but it's too late to regret my decision now. The fact is...I need James on that jury. I did the math in my head. I need four votes to win this game...and he's my fourth.
He held up four fingers on his right hand. Slowly, he lowered his index finger.
Takuya: Rika is pretty much a guaranteed vote in my favour. And I'm counting on JP and May to vote for me, if they despise Drew as much as I do. So, that's three votes right there. I have to put James on the jury if I want the fourth vote – the winning vote. But then again, would he reward a million dollars to the guy who voted him out? You know what they say...an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a vote for a million dollars...
For the whole morning, Takuya lied lazily inside the shelter. He felt this was going to be a lazy day. Glancing around the campsite, he could see there were a few unwashed dishes piling up nearby the campfire. Neither man bothered to clean up the plates after breakfast today, nor did they clean up the plates that Professor Birch brought yesterday morning. Since it was their last day there, Takuya felt like he had a right to act like a slob. Sometimes, he felt that he had deformed to a primitive and uncivilized Neanderthal man who couldn't even take care of his own needs. But given a choice, Takuya would rather lie around accomplishing nothing than to clean up the mess in this campsite.
Besides, he figured he could use this time to prepare his speech for tonight. This speech was a pivotal one, since he had to convince the seven jurors why they should reward him with a million dollars after he lied, manipulated, and backstabbed so many players to get to the Final Two. Although Takuya loved to speak, he never claimed to be a man of words. He did not have a particularly eloquent vocabulary, or at least compared to the relatively articulate Drew. Still, Takuya was not worried. He had plenty of hours to think of an impressive speech that will persuade the jury members to vote in his favour.
The clock was ticking.
Drew, of course, prepared his jury speech days beforehand. He believed that the process of developing a significant speech like this one could not be crammed in the span of a few hours on the last day. Then again, Drew had been very certain that he would be in the Final Two for quite some time. And he was right. Drew loved being right.
His confidence was only rivalled by his tremendous amount of organization and effort he devoted to this game, specifically tonight. His background as a talented Pokemon Coordinator would come in handy when he presented his speech to the jury. He was used to performing in front of a live audience. He was used to being organized. He was used to feeling confident. Most importantly, Drew was used to winning.
The game of Survivor was similar to Pokemon Contests in many aspects. Drew understood that in order to become a victor in either event, he had to become cutthroat yet subtle. His strategy had to be gracious and shrewd, whether his audience was a panel of judges or a jury of seven. It was why Drew fared so well in this game. May, the other Pokemon Coordinator in this game, could have performed just as well, but Drew rightfully eliminated his toughest competition when he had the chance.
Although Drew thought of himself as the best player and the deserving victor of this game, others might see the reality in a different light. In Drew's mind, it was the incorrect light. The one thing he hated most about people was that they were generally stupid and resentful. Drew would not feel doubtful about the outcome of this game had the jury consisted of seven impartial judges who speculated the entire game from afar. Unfortunately, the fate of his game now rested in the hands of his seven previous competitors, who were bitter and jealous that Drew was in the Final Two instead of them.
If history was an indication of the future, then things do not look hopeful for Drew, since four of the jurors had cast votes against him just before they were voted off. To add more insult to injury, it didn't help matters that he was responsible for the demises of at least four people on the jury, most of which were his alliance members in the past. He had a hand in voting out TK, May, Casey, and JP – those four jurors alone could determine if Drew would win this game or not. Tonight, Drew will find out if the jury will forgive and forget, or if his backstabbing antics will finally catch up and cause him to lose the game.
Drew: In my mind, I believed that I have already won Survivor. I played the best game and I'm going to stand by that when I make my point to the jury. Whether they like it or not, I outsmarted, outplayed, and outlasted them in every possible way. If they don't vote for me, then I'll know they're just bitter and jealous. That's all.
Drew rolled his eyes in disapproval. He flipped his hair with his hand.
Drew: It's a little insulting that my opponent in the Final Two is an obnoxious idiot. At least James is a harmless and kind-hearted idiot. But I can't take Takuya seriously. I've been trying to get rid of him since the merge, yet he somehow stumbled his way here by accident. And if he wins this game, it will be the biggest upset in Survivor history. But hopefully, the jury will make the right decision tonight. There must be at least four functional brains in that bunch, right?
An arrogant smirk spread across his face.
Drew: Mark my words. Takuya Kanbara will not win this game.
By evening, both men felt as prepared as they could possibly be. Their belongings were packed, their farewells were made, and their minds were set. All that was left was a notification for them to go to tribal council.
"Let's go check treemail," said Takuya.
"One last time." Drew added as he nodded his head.
The two men began trekking along the river in silence. Along the way, they passed by the tribe's motorboat, tied to an oak tree by rope. Drew felt a sudden case of reminiscence as he approached the boat. He laid his hand on it, and his fingers slowly ran across the white paint until he came upon two roughly engraved words. They read: "BROCK SUCKS".
"Seeing this makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside." Drew laughed.
"I always wanted to know the story behind that." Takuya raised an eyebrow. A knowing grin spread across his face. "It was you, wasn't it?"
Drew shrugged his shoulders and moved on.
"Guilty as charged." Takuya mouthed the words to a nearby cameraman.
At last, the two men arrived at the tribe's mailbox. As always, the roll of parchment was found inside the beak of a tiny Wingull. Drew gently removed the note from its mouth.
"Are you ready?" Drew asked as he unrolled the parchment in his hands.
"Yeah, I suppose." Takuya laughed nervously. "This is it, dude!"
"The Final Two is to proceed to the final tribal council immediately." Drew read. Takuya stood behind him, looking over the Pokemon Coordinator's shoulder. "But first, you must pass through a rite of passage, containing the memories of fourteen players who have fallen before you. Pay your respects to your friends, your tribe members, and most importantly, your competitors."
"I hope they have a tissue box ready." Takuya laughed. He ran his finger down his face to imply an imaginary tear. "This is too emotional. I could start crying like a baby!"
"Great. I totally want to remember these people for the rest of my life." Drew added sarcastically.
"Come on, man." Takuya grinned. He put a friendly arm around Drew's shoulder. "Let's get this rite of passage crap over with so I can win a million dollars."
"I see that you're lying already...lying to yourself, that is." Drew remarked. He shook Takuya's arm off his body. "You should be prepared for tribal council tonight."
"Ha ha. You're so much fun." Takuya stared at Drew humourlessly. "Seriously, let's take this moment to...you know, congratulate ourselves for making it this far! I'll...uh, I'll start! Drew, you have been a worthy competitor! There's nobody who would make a better runner-up to this game than you!"
Takuya grinned. He extended his arm to Drew for a handshake. The Pokemon Coordinator looked hesitant for a moment, but he accepted Takuya's hand with a gracious smile.
"Likewise, Takuya." Drew said.
"I wish you the best of luck tonight." Takuya laughed. "And may the best dude win!"
- - -
The rite of passage began at the entrance of the forest. An abandoned torch was found lying on the ground. Feeling curious, Takuya picked it up and revealed that the torch belonged to Butch, the first victim of the game.
"He's Botch, right? I don't know the guy at all." Takuya shrugged his shoulders.
"He's the founder of the short-lived Breakfast Club alliance. I'll always remember him for his extreme arrogance." Drew smirked. "And the way he treated most people with almost no respect."
"Stop it, Drew. This moment is not about you! Stop talking about yourself already!" Takuya laughed, punching Drew playfully in the shoulders.
Drew glared angrily at Takuya, but did not say anything. They moved on.
Butch: The best player didn't win because he got voted off first! We all know I would've dominated this game if I lasted longer. Bastards!
The next torch they came across belonged to Suzie, the second fallen victim. The short and stumpy torch was leaning against a tree. Takuya smiled as he approached it.
"Suzie was awesome!" Takuya exclaimed. He picked up the torch and lifted it in the air.
"She seems too young for the game," said Drew.
"Too naïve," added Takuya with a nod of head.
Suzie: I'm really, really happy that I got out of this game before it got really, really nasty!
The cheery atmosphere faded away when Drew and Takuya arrived at the third torch. It was Zoe's torch. Takuya fell silent as he walked over to the torch, his lips pursed with a dismal frown.
"Oh Zoe..." Takuya sighed softly.
He closed his eyes and planted a gentle kiss on the torch. Drew smirked, looking more amused than he should be.
"I'm doing this for you, Zoe" Takuya whispered to the torch. He clenched his fists together tightly. "I'll win the game for you."
Zoe: I went into this game wanting to constantly prove something to people. I guess I came on a little too strong. I should have stayed low and quiet in the first couple of days.
Several trees away, they found the fourth torch, which belonged to Delia. When he first saw it, Drew felt a sheepish smile spread across his face.
"I competed with Mrs. Ketchum in the first reward challenge." Drew said. "When I began celebrating, she told me that only a true winner shows humility after a victory."
"Sounds like what a loser will say to make themselves feel better." Takuya snickered.
"She did horrible at that challenge, by the way." Drew added.
"She sucked in all of the challenges. She was totally useless." Takuya shook his head and scoffed. "Hey, look where she is, and look where we're at now!"
"Lesson learnt." Drew nodded his head eagerly.
Delia: Everybody is a winner if they can walk out of this game with their heads high and their dignities intact. I'm glad I'm one of the few who accomplished this feat.
The next torch did not ignite much conversation between the two men. Drew didn't have much to say about the girl he never met. Takuya had a lot of choice words for Mimi, but he would just like to forget that Mimi ever existed. And after all, some things were better left unspoken about.
"She wasn't good at the challenges either." Drew said finally, after struggling to remember anything memorable about the skinny brunette. "Why did you keep her around for so long?"
"We didn't have a choice." Takuya replied.
"That's why Huntail kept beating Gorebyss in the challenges." Drew said in a matter-of-fact voice.
"Mimi cooked some great meals, I'll give her that." Takuya said. He wore a cocky little smile as he grabbed Mimi's torch with his hand. "But that's the only productive thing she did for our tribe. Good riddance."
He dropped Mimi's torch on the ground and walked away.
Mimi: The island was brutal in so many ways! Like, all of the lotions in the world could not make my skin look healthy again. Ugh. I give kudos to the Final Two for lasting this long.
Brock's torch stood strong and sturdy amidst the trees. He was the sixth victim of the game. Takuya didn't have a lot to say, but Drew lingered around his torch, smiling at it in satisfaction.
"He was a good guy. A good leader," said Drew.
"He was a beast in the challenges too." Takuya added. He gave a puzzled glance at the Pokemon Coordinator. "I thought he would've lasted way longer in this game."
"But he didn't know how to play this game, not discreetly anyway." Drew shrugged his shoulders dismissively. "That's the problem."
Brock: There's one reason that led to my early downfall – I started on a tribe with men. If only I began the game in a tribe with seven beautiful women, things would've been so much different. I could've charmed them with my rugged good looks, for example.
Takuya and Drew found the seventh torch nearby, standing only a short distance away from where Brock's torch was. Takato's torch distinguished itself from the rest with all the interesting art carved on the wood. Takuya examined the entire torch with an amazed expression.
"Whoa...this kid is a good artist!" Takuya muttered. He was staring at a picture of a tiny Seel drawn on the torch. "He seems like a decent guy too."
"We were too different." Drew said in a dismissive and disapproving tone. "He was too inflexible on many things. Talking strategy with Takato was like pounding my head repeatedly on a brick wall."
"Good for him. At least there's someone sane enough to stay away from you." Takuya grinned.
Takato: I regret that I didn't make it further in the game. I would've really loved to be on the jury...
"We're finished with half the passage already," remarked Drew.
"Wait. Help me find the next torch." Takuya grinned. "That one is gonna be great."
"Cassidy?" Drew said uncertainly.
"Yeah, I have a lot of things I want to say to her." Takuya laughed.
"You'll have your chance. You can say it to her face on the jury." Drew said with a smirk.
"Are you crazy!?" Takuya waved his hands frantically in the air. "Do you want her to murder me on the spot!?"
The two men finally located Cassidy's torch, standing triumphantly on a stump. Takuya ran over to the stump, picked up the torch and threw it to the ground. While Drew looked on with an amused expression, Takuya raised his arms in victory.
"That one is for Rika!" Takuya exclaimed.
Feeling unsatisfied, he picked up the torch and tossed it to the ground again.
"And this one is for Zoe!" Takuya shouted angrily.
"Well, she's not that bad..." Drew muttered.
Cassidy: A lot of people expect me to be a bitch, but I'm actually a very sophisticated and highly intelligent woman. That said, I do have a lot of things I want to criticize about the Final Two. I hope the boys are ready for tonight, because I sure am!
The ninth torch belonged to JP Shibayama, lying lazily on the ground. Just as Takuya was about to stop and comment, Drew walked right past it as if he never saw the torch.
"Hey, show some respect!" Takuya said, putting his hands on his hips. "He was in your tribe, you know!"
"You go ahead. I'll wait here." Drew said, leaning his back against a tree. "Tell me when you're done."
"You're that cold, huh?" Takuya asked.
"I just don't want to acknowledge him as a player, that's all." Drew shrugged his shoulders.
JP: I'm kind of angry because both Drew and Takuya backstabbed me when they're supposed to be my friends. I had their backs the whole time, but that's apparently not the case with them. So, let's just say there're other combinations of the Final Two that I'd like to see than those two knuckleheads.
Even though Drew and Takuya were supposed to stay on a marked route, they wandered off the path and became lost. After walking around in circles for a while, the two men finally stumbled upon the right route again. However, the next torch they encountered was Rika's torch.
"She wasn't voted off next, was she?" Takuya asked, looking confused.
"Casey was the tenth person voted out," said Drew. He looked around the forest. "We must've missed her torch somewhere."
"Did we walk right past it?" Takuya asked.
"Probably." Drew nodded his head. He turned to Takuya with a nonchalant expression. "Do you want to go back and look for it?
Takuya and Drew exchanged knowing glances with each other. They smirked. The answer was more than obvious.
"So, what can you say about Rika Nonaka..." Drew began, but he was interrupted by Takuya's abrupt laughter.
"We're such assholes, you know that?" Takuya snickered. "We don't even acknowledge that poor girl in the memory walk!"
Casey: I'm not happy with the Final Two at all! One is a heartless scumbag, and the other guy is also a heartless scumbag. I don't think either Takuya or Drew deserves to win, but I have to reward one of them with a million dollars. So, I'll probably vote for the lesser of two evils...and that kind of sucks.
Takuya turned to Rika's torch with a fond smile. There were thirty three notches carved on the torch, resembling the number of days that she spent on this island. Takuya vaguely recalled Rika's habit of marking her torch to form a calendar on the island.
"Coolest chick to play Survivor ever!" Takuya grinned. He flashed a thumbs-up to the torch. "She's also the most intimidating chick to play Survivor ever!"
"She's quite a character, isn't she?" Drew smirked. "She has a unique outlook to life."
"I don't even know if I really got her. That Rika...she's just one big confusing mystery." Takuya laughed, scratching his head. "All I know is that she can kick my ass any time of the week!"
Rika: Like them or not, they're in the Final Two. It's the dumbass versus the smartass. This should be interesting. Hopefully, the goggle-head will pull through. I want him to do less of kissing ass with the jury, and more of kicking Drew's ass to where the moon doesn't shine.
The next torch belonged to May, the twelfth victim of the game. Her torch was decorated with similar drawings found on Takato's torch. Both Takuya and Drew stared at her torch with a long profound silence.
"Here's another cool girl." Takuya finally said. He flashed a wide smile at her torch. "She was the sweetheart of the game."
"If you say so," Drew muttered. He sounded somewhat uncomfortable as he spoke. "We had a love-hate relationship going on."
"I think the hate is more on your side, you big jerk." Takuya said jokingly.
"She was a decent competitor," admitted Drew.
"Yeah, I don't know what's going on between you two..." Takuya laughed. He nudged Drew with his elbow. "But she's pretty hot though, isn't she?"
Drew ignored him.
May: Wow, I've a really important decision ahead of me. I mean, I'm giving somebody a million dollars! That's a lot of power in my hands...and it feels kind of scary! I think I know who I'm voting for, but first I'm going to listen to what they say tonight. A certain you-know-who might convince me to change my mind...
They found TK's torch lying on the ground. Out of respect, Drew picked the torch up and placed it against a tree. Ironically enough, the torch wouldn't stand on its own though, because there was a tiny chip on the bottom. Drew adjusted the position so TK's torch would lean against the tree without falling down.
"He's a nice guy all around." Takuya said, smiling politely at the torch. "I didn't always meet eye to eye with him, but...he's alright."
He paused for a moment before he relaxed his smile a little.
"He's Golden Boy," added Takuya.
"TK made it further than any of us gave him credit for." Drew said, also smiling at the torch. "I tip my hat to him."
"He has one hell of a journey, that's for sure!" Takuya laughed.
TK: They voted me out, but I harbour no ill feelings towards Drew or Takuya. I respect both of their games, although I've a few questions about their strategies. I haven't made up my mind who I'm voting for yet. But...uh, but I'll hopefully reward the person who's most deserving of the money.
Last but not least, there was James' torch. He was the fourteenth victim of the game. Both Drew and Takuya approached the torch, nodding their heads in acknowledgement.
"James played a pretty good game." Drew admitted.
"He didn't receive a single vote until the last tribal council." Takuya said. He lowered his head in shame. "And that was from me, so it doesn't really count."
"Not to mention...he voted for the right person at every tribal council. That's quite an accomplishment." Drew laughed. "Even I didn't achieve that!"
"That's because you're a bad player, Drew." Takuya teased.
"Should I remind you that you voted with the minority in three out of the four past tribal councils?" Drew asked with a conceited smirk.
"But they're all votes to get you out of the game." Takuya grinned. "So, they're worth it."
James: Survivor is coming to an end. I can't wait to go home, reunite with my friends, and forget everything bad that has happened on this island. Not to discredit what Drew and Takuya accomplished though! They both should be commended for their hard work. They're two different men who played with two very different game styles, so it's hard to decide who played the best one...
The rite of passage was over.
Only two torches remained. They were found at the exit of the forest, standing adjacent to each other.
Drew grabbed one, Takuya grabbed the other.
And the two finalists proceeded to their final tribal council.
- - -
Professor Birch stood on top of a summit, looking over the majestic waterfall below him. From a distance, he could identify the two finalists hiking up the mountain to reach their final tribal council. They were both carrying their torches, lit with two strong flames that illuminated their path in the middle of this solemn and restful night. Professor Birch slowly nodded his head to himself in acknowledgement. It was time.
When Drew and Takuya entered tribal council, the place looked hauntingly empty at first. The jury had not arrived yet. As usual, there was a large bonfire placed in the centre of the set. It was accompanied by a glass sculpture of the Dewford Dewgong nearby. In front of the sculpture stood Professor Birch, dressed in a long white laboratory coat and a pair of unfashionable brown sandals – his usual attire. Professor Birch greeted the two men with a friendly smile and motioned them to sit down on the wooden bleachers.
"Welcome to the final tribal council," said Professor Birch. He paused, surveying the two men's faces for their reactions. "We'll now bring in the members of our jury."
Cassidy entered, carrying a confident and fierce stride in her steps. JP and Casey followed behind her, both shooting resentful glares at the two finalists. Rika came in next, her face devoid of any emotion as usual. May and TK walked in after her, and Professor Birch soon noticed they were the only two jurors smiling pleasantly tonight. And finally, James arrived with his head down and his back turned away from the two finalists. He silently made his way to the jury bench, sitting down next to TK.
"Thirty nine days ago, sixteen of you competed in the journey of a lifetime. Now, only two remain." Professor Birch declared, "Drew and Takuya, congratulations for making it this far in the game. Everything you've worked so hard for now boils down to this moment. Here tonight, we'll acknowledge your accomplishments, your actions, and your adventures in the game." The professor paused as he took a brief glance of the seven jurors. "This is it. This is the final judgment."
Professor Birch cleared his throat. He turned his head back to Drew and Takuya, both of them exchanging smiles of anticipation.
"The jury, composed of seven players who you had a hand of directly or indirectly removed from the game, will decide which one of you deserves to win the title of Sole Survivor and the coveted one million dollars." Professor Birch announced, "There is a lot at stake, but the power rests entirely in the jury's hands. So, what you say or do tonight might influence how the jury will vote at the end of this tribal council."
Professor Birch paused. He turned towards Takuya, who was grinning nervously at Rika on the jury.
"It's time for your opening remarks. This is your chance to convince the jury why you think you deserve the victory." Professor Birch said. "Takuya, we'll start with you first."
Takuya nodded. He looked hesitant at first, debating with himself whether or not he should stand up to make his speech. He stood up a few seconds later, but the jury did not look impressed with the tardiness in his movements. They were already losing patience with the Frontier. This didn't look good.
"So...hey there, everyone. Long time no see." Takuya grinned clumsily as he addressed the jury of seven. Only Rika returned a thin, wry smile back at the Frontier, but it was enough of a response to encourage Takuya to pour more confidence into his voice. "I'm going to make this short and sweet. I think I should win the title of Sole Survivor because that's what I did out here – I survived."
He paused as the grin on his boyish face grew even wider.
"The odds were against me since the beginning of the game. I volunteered to be part of a twist that I knew nothing about, and uh...I became the only guy in a tribe with seven women. So, right off the bet, I was in a minority. I was the underdog." Takuya said, smiling directly at May. "And throughout the game, I was constantly in the minority but I kept on surviving. It had gotten to a point where everybody wanted me gone, and I soon became a minority of one."
Takuya paused. He let out a forced chuckle.
"But I did what I did best...I survived. I acted as if my life depended on the immunity challenges. And I won four of those when I needed to win them the most," said Takuya. He proudly held up four fingers in his hand. "And isn't that what Survivor is all about? Surviving against the odds? Because that's what I did out here...I used all my resources, I talked strategy with everybody, and I did everything I could to get to where I am today. So, I hope you guys can see that I played one hell of a game. And uh...thanks for listening!"
As Takuya sat down, he caught a glimpse of the satisfied expressions on several jurors' faces. It was exactly the reaction Takuya had hoped for. They didn't have to like him, but they should at least respect him for the obstacles that he overcame in this game.
Whether they liked it or not, he deserved to be in the Final Two.
Without waiting a response from Professor Birch, Drew stood up next for his opening remarks. He was growing antsy as he listened to Takuya flattered the jurors with his suave and charming words. It was Drew's turn to steal the glory.
"Good evening, jurors. I come here tonight pleading all of you to put aside your bias and keep an open mind." Drew began. He smiled graciously at the jury of seven, but none of them returned the friendly gesture. "Do not judge me based on whether or not I fulfilled a promise or a loyalty to you, because that's not what the game of Survivor is about. I'm not honest, I'm not loyal, and I never claimed to be any of the above. I might have backstabbed some of you – in fact, I had a hand in voting out most of you on that jury, but I don't want you to hold a bitter grudge against me because I played the game like it was meant to be played. After all, outsmarting your competitors is the essence of Survivor."
Drew paused, examining the reactions on the jury members' faces. None of them showed any trace of emotion, other than May who wore a slight smirk on her face.
"I've said this many times before, but I'm going to repeat it once more tonight. In the game of Survivor, you have to separate your emotions from your strategy. A lot of you failed to accomplish that and it's why you're sitting on the jury tonight." Drew continued, "The only exception to this rule is Takuya, who acts on a foolish impulse, but I believe he stumbled into the Final Two by accident. There were many times he could have been voted off, but I kept him alive in this game by a thread. He did not have any control over his own destiny. I did."
Takuya shot an offended look at the Pokemon Coordinator, but Drew ignored him.
"What distinguishes me from Takuya is that I'm not only a survivor, but I'm also a dominator. I dominated this game from start to finish. I controlled almost every vote in this game. I was the undisputed mastermind. The evidence? Well, most of you are sitting on that jury because of me." Drew said with a smug smirk. "But instead of being angry at me, I ask you to view this from an impartial perspective. Because that is the only way you'll see what a stellar game I've played. Judge me based on the strategy I've played, not because I've betrayed you in the past. Tonight, I want you to keep an open mind." Drew gave a small bow. "Thank you for your time."
Professor Birch nodded his head at Drew, who sat down in his seat with a satisfied smirk. Sitting beside him, Takuya looked annoyed. His arms were folded across his chest as a defense mechanism.
"Thank you, gentlemen." Professor Birch said. He shifted his body to face the seven jurors. "Jury, in a moment, you'll have your chance to address the two finalists with a comment or a question. Take your time and collect your thoughts. And JP, we'll begin with you."
- - -
JP Shibayama walked up to stand in front of the two finalists. He kept some distance away from Drew and Takuya, but he was at a close enough proximity to appear intimidating and powerful, just as JP had hoped for. The chubby Frontier placed his hands behind his back and shifted his feet, trying to stand in a comfortable position. When he finished making his adjustments, he looked up at the two men and smiled.
"Hello, guys. I've observed the two of you at tribal council for a while. And I can't help but notice an interesting trend over time," said JP. The friendly smile on his face was beginning to fade away. "At the end of each tribal council, Drew just betrayed someone in his own alliance, while Takuya is in the outs of his tribe once again. And dude, it feels like I'm watching the same thing occur at every single tribal council! Drew screws over one of his friends, Takuya watches a friend get voted off, repeat, repeat, repeat. It's like watching a really boring loop."
A couple of the jurors laughed. Hearing the laughter encouraged JP to continue his speech with even more confidence and snideness.
"Takuya, I wished I could feel sorry for you, but you brought everything onto yourself." JP shook his head dramatically. He frowned at the athletic Frontier in disapproval. "You had so many opportunities to improve your position in this game, but you continue to make these really stupid mistakes...and you end up putting all of your allies at peril, dude."
"I beg to differ," said Takuya.
"At the eighth tribal council, I had the power to vote out either you or Cassidy. I chose to keep you around because I valued our friendship. How do you repay me? Well, you voted me out at the next tribal council!" JP exclaimed. He shook his head angrily at nobody in particular. "And in my mind, that's a really ungrateful thing to do, because I risked my entire game to save you, but you couldn't do the same thing for me!"
"First off, I'm sorry for voting you out." Takuya said, looking somewhat sheepish as he gave this reply.
"So, you admit that you made the wrong move by apologizing to me?" JP asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I apologize for being a bad friend." Takuya answered vaguely.
"I felt that was your biggest mistake in the game, because by keeping Rika around, you've limited your possibilities and actually hindered your own game," said JP. "I, on the other hand, would have taken you under my wing. You would've gained some sort of power in this game instead of being in the outs at every tribal council."
"You were asking me to vote Rika out...and I couldn't do it," muttered Takuya.
"Then don't complain about not being in the minority! You were given a chance to improve your position in the game, but you were stupid enough not to take it!" JP snapped angrily.
"I'm sorry you feel that way." Takuya shrugged his shoulders.
"And Drew, don't try to justify your backstabbing by saying that it's part of the game." JP said, entirely ignoring Takuya's remark. "Last time I recall, everybody in your alliance had your back, but you just kept screwing them over and over for no reason at all. You didn't play this game with a lot of tact or subtlety at all."
Drew managed to suppress a smug smirk from appearing on his face. If he was in a different position tonight, he would have formulated tons of rebuttals to JP's seemingly hypocritical statement.
"Let's go back to the night I was voted off. It was the ninth tribal council and there were eight of us left," described JP. He was glaring directly at the Pokemon Coordinator. "Drew, you and I made a deal that we'll vote out Rika. Had you not switched your vote – and I know you were the traitor because I've already discussed this with May – but had you not screwed me over, Rika would have been voted off, and Huntail would have risen to the top once more."
"JP, you're leaving out the part when you betrayed the Huntail alliance at the previous tribal council. You've proven to me then that you're not a loyal or trustworthy person, so I had no obligations to stay loyal to you either." Drew interjected.
"Cassidy doesn't count. She was notpart of our alliance. She was never part of our core," argued JP. He narrowed his eyes angrily at the Pokemon Coordinator. "I had your back this entire time, Drew. I would've never voted you out. But you did, you forced a tie and you convinced May to switch her vote too. You're the one who wrecked our entire alliance!"
"I'm not denying it. It was a great move on my part. I couldn't have made it this far if I stuck with the Huntail alliance the whole way," said Drew.
"But you were in no danger of going that night! By voting me out, you actually lost someone in your own alliance. So, that was a really stupid move on your part!" JP spitted angrily on the ground.
"That's where you're wrong. Voting you out benefited me because you were lying to everybody. You lied to me, you lied to May, you lied to Takuya...you just weren't a trustworthy person. That's why I couldn't keep you around," said Drew.
"And what about the others? What about Casey, or May, or TK? They never lied to you. Why did you vote them out? Admit it, Drew...you don't have a legitimate reason of backstabbing any of us at all." JP said, speaking in a louder tone than he intended. "How can you sleep at night, knowing that you've backstabbed four of your allies who were completely loyal to you?"
"I sleep with pleasure," replied Drew with a smug smirk.
"You don't feel guilty at all?" JP asked one more time, as if he was trying to probe a certain answer from the Pokemon Coordinator. "Not one bit?"
"No, I'm not here to make friends. I'm here to win, whatever it takes," said Drew calmly.
"Whatever." JP rolled his eyes, looking unsatisfied. "My question for both of you is this...do you regret voting me out from the game?"
"No." Drew replied instantly.
"Sorry, but no," said Takuya with an apologetic smile.
"Dude...wrong answer." JP grinned belligerently at the two men. Before either of them had time to retort, the chubby Frontier already turned around to face Professor Birch. "I'm done, professor."
And JP Shibayama returned to his seat.
- - -
Casey stepped up to address the two finalists next. At first, she felt a little nervous to be in the centre of attention, but she also enjoyed this moment in a way. This was her moment. After all, it was Drew and Takuya sitting in front of her, two of the men who wronged her so many times in the game. And now, one of them was about to win a million dollars. It was hard for Casey to not have an opinion about the injustice done here!
"Well, that's kind of a hard act to follow!" Casey chuckled.
Drew and Takuya exchanged knowing smiles with each other.
"But JP brought up a good point in his...speech," said Casey cautiously. She didn't want to hurt JP's feelings, but she thought he had been rambling for the last few minutes. "You both made some stupid mistakes in this game."
Casey paused. She briefly shuffled her feet on the ground.
"Drew, you speak like you play this perfect game and you're some sort of brilliant mastermind. But I...uh, I'm going have to disagree with you on that." Casey laughed. "When Cassidy was voted out, you were blindsided just like me. You had no idea that your...allies teamed up together and outsmarted you. And they got you good!"
Drew shrugged his shoulders. He expected someone to pinpoint the weakest part of his game, and he had a prepared refutation if Casey would give him the opportunity to speak.
"Takuya, you made even more mistakes than Drew. Sometimes, I don't think you had any idea what you were doing at all!" Casey grinned.
Takuya rolled his eyes. He could sense that the petite baseball lover got a thrill just for insulting him in public.
Let her have this moment. Takuya thought to himself. We'll see who's laughing when I bring home the million dollars.
"But what do I know? I'm just an innocent bystander in this game. Don't let me be the judge of your strategies!" Casey's cheeky grin grew wider. "The two of you have played the game together for a long time. You should know each other's strengths and weaknesses by now. So...my question for both of you is: what was the worst mistake the other person has made in this game?"
Casey took a step back and smiled. She wanted to see Drew and Takuya rip into each other as much as possible. This should be good.
"Drew, I want you to answer first," said Casey.
"Well, you're right. Takuya did make a lot of mistakes in this game. It's hard to name just one." Drew smirked.
"Give me the worst one," repeated Casey.
"I believe his worst mistake occurred at the tenth tribal council." Drew said slowly. He processed his words in his head first before he spoke. "It was the only time when Gorebyss had an advantage over Huntail in numbers, and if the four of you worked together, you could've eliminated the three Huntail members one by one. But for some reason, Takuya wanted the entire tribe to vote you out. It was obviously not in his best interests, but then again...it's Takuya. You and I both know he's not the sharpest tool in the shed."
Casey nodded her head eagerly. Drew could tell it was an indication that he gave an answer she wanted to hear. She turned towards Takuya.
"I think Drew's biggest mistake in the game is underestimating me." Takuya replied. He shot a spiteful glare at the Pokemon Coordinator before continuing. "It's obvious that he wanted me gone for a long time, yet he can never find a way to get me out of the game. I'm pretty sure he doesn't want to sit next to me in the Final Two, but here I am! I'm his worst enemy and his biggest mistake. And if I win the game, I know it's going to crush his ego. Drew will regret not voting me out earlier for the rest of his life."
Casey looked thoughtful as she processed Takuya's answer in her head.
"Thanks. That's it." Casey said, smiling weakly at the two finalists. "I appreciate your answers."
To be honest, Casey didn't want either of the men to win the game. They had both used her at one point or another. Sadly, the rules dictate that she had to pick a winner amongst these two duds. For Casey, tonight's decision boiled down to choosing the lesser of two evils.
In other words, who does Casey want to see lose more?
- - -
The third juror to ask a question was Rika Nonaka. As the icy Tamer stepped up, Takuya couldn't help but sigh in relief. After facing two difficult jurors, he was grateful to know he had at least one supporter on that jury. Even though Rika might not necessarily show it in her expressionless face, he knew she was a guaranteed vote in his favour.
"Summarize your games in one word." Rika grunted.
At first, Drew was startled at the straightforwardness of her question. He waited a few seconds, expecting Rika to begin some sort of critical diatribe about how Drew and Takuya failed to play the game. But as usual, Rika was a woman of few words. When making a point, she didn't like to talk around in circles.
"Survival...for obvious reasons," said Takuya.
"Dominance. That's what I've done for the entire game." Drew replied.
"Is that all, Rika?" Professor Birch asked.
Rika nodded her head and walked back to her seat.
- - -
It was May's turn next. She walked up in front of the two finalists with a sweet and polite smile on her face. Takuya instantly fell at ease. There was something about her casual and happy-go-lucky attitude that endeared her to the athletic Frontier. He could tell that May was going to be one of the easier jurors to handle tonight.
"Hi, guys! First off, I want to congratulate both of you for making it to the Final Two." May said, clasping her hands together over her chest. "You don't get nearly enough credit for all your hard work."
"Thanks, May." Takuya grinned.
"Tonight, I want to talk about honesty, because it's one of the values that I treasure in my heart." May continued, "Unfortunately, there are some occasions when I felt both of you have been dishonest in this game. So, here's the opportunity to cleanse your souls. I want you to list all the lies you've told in this game and why."
The muscles in Drew's face immediately tensed up. He glared warily at May, but she looked oblivious to his reaction.
"Drew, why don't you start first?" May asked in a sweet voice.
"Okay, sure." Drew cleared his throat. He cursed himself for being caught off guard by May's innocent little question. Even though she was trying to undermine him in front of the jury, he would not back down from her trap. "Where to begin..."
"This could take a while." Takuya joked.
"The first lie I've told is to Butch. I promised him that I'll join his alliance and vote out Takato, but I backed out of it at the last second with James." Drew explained. "We decided that Butch wasn't trustworthy enough and he would've dragged down our tribe morale."
Drew briefly glanced at the blue-haired Team Rocket member before continuing. James did not look back.
"The second lie I've told is to Brock. We were supposed to be in an alliance together and vote out TK, but Brock just threatened me too much as a leader. I wanted him to go so the Huntail trio could break up." Drew said, "I had no choice but to mislead him at tribal council. I can't let him know beforehand that he's going, or he'd find a way to campaign and stay."
May tapped her foot impatiently on the ground.
"The third lie I've told is to you and Takato. I lied to the two of you at the merge when I said that Huntail will stick together at the merge. It turns out that we actually want Takato to go instead," said Drew.
"That's a lot of lies you've told, Drew." May said.
"I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing." Drew shrugged his shoulders. "I never got caught when I told any of these lies, which only proves that I've outsmarted everybody in the game."
Takuya scoffed in ridicule.
"Anyway, the fourth lie I've told is to JP. We addressed this earlier in the night, so I'm not going to elaborate on it," said Drew.
From the jury, JP had his arms folded defensively across his chest. He did not look impressed.
"And the fifth lie I've told is to TK, because I didn't stick by the Huntail alliance like I'm supposed to." Drew explained, "The truth is I never intended to stay loyal to Huntail. Most of you would've beaten me at the final vote just based on likeability. I would've never stood a chance."
May nodded her head in acknowledgement. When Drew had nothing else to add to his list, she turned towards Takuya with a friendly smile.
"Your turn, Takuya." May said.
"Well, I've only really told two big lies in this game." Takuya replied, "I've lied to you and Takato at the merge. I promised that I'll vote out Cassidy with you two, but I already made a deal with Huntail that I'll vote Takato out. So...I ended up putting myself in a tough dilemma."
"And what is the other lie?" May asked.
"At the Final Five, I faked an argument with James so that you wouldn't suspect we were working together." Takuya said, shrugging his shoulders. "It backfired on us, but I guess a failed lie is still a lie."
This revelation surprised some of the jurors. They turned to each other and began mumbling in discussion.
"Yeah, that's it. I'm actually a pretty honest guy." Takuya paused as a wry grin spread across his face. "I mean, I'm not a compulsive liar like Drew!"
Satisfied with the answers provided, May thanked the two finalists for her time and returned to her seat.
- - -
Drew did not know what to expect from TK Takaishi, the fifth juror of the night. He was usually a pleasant young man, but Drew was dubious about the blonde's reaction after being backstabbed by the Pokemon Coordinator a few days ago. Fortunately, it was evident that TK bore no harsh feelings when he began speaking in his usual friendly manner. Drew detected no signs of vindictiveness in his chipper voice.
"Congratulations for playing a great game," said TK. He paused to survey the two men's faces. "Believe it or not, but I haven't made up my mind about tonight. I think both of you deserve to win, and that's why I asked the professor if I can give both of you a million dollars. Unfortunately, he said no."
"Sorry, guys." Professor Birch grinned.
Takuya and Drew chuckled at the tiny playful joke, which made the handsome blonde smile in satisfaction. TK had felt that the atmosphere at tribal council had been too serious and disheartening, so he was pleased that the two finalists were finally loosening up.
"I want the two of you to compare yourself and your opponent with a pair of similar objects or animals. Then, explain your choices." TK said. When Drew and Takuya exchanged blank expressions with each other, TK decided to elaborate on his instructions. "I'll give you an example. Takuya is like a lion because he's brave, fierce and extremely loyal to his friends. Drew is like a cougar because he's quick, cutthroat and indulges in an immense amount of power."
TK paused as he grinned at the two men.
"Do you guys understand?" TK asked.
"Oh yeah, this should be fun!" Takuya laughed. He tapped his index finger on his chin. "Hmm...let's see now. Drew is like a glass of water...because he's tasteless and transparent." He paused, ignoring the grumbling heard from his competitor Drew. "And I'm like a cup of coffee. I'm full of energy and...uh, a few people might think I'm bitter, but most will agree that I'm quite sweet."
"Okay. Drew?" TK gestured his hands towards the Pokemon Coordinator.
"Takuya is like a snowflake because he's flaky and harmless." Drew said with a malicious smirk. "And I'm like a streak of lightning, because I'm dangerous and I attack in a flash."
"Thanks for the creative answers." TK laughed. He nodded his head a few times before he began his walk back to the jury bench. "Take it easy, you guys. I wish both of you the best of luck!"
- - -
James was the next person to approach the two finalists, and Takuya watched him with an apprehensive gaze. The Team Rocket member was the one juror who Takuya felt most wary about. After all, he voted James out at the last tribal council. He was the culprit who prevented James from making it to the Final Two, possibly winning the one million dollars. Takuya justified his actions due to strategic reasons, but it would be difficult for James to understand. And Takuya did not know the Team Rocket member well enough to determine if he was a forgiving person or not.
Takuya hoped that he was.
"I think Drew and Takuya are similar in many ways. You're both competitive and you're both driven to win." James said, flashing a weak and unenthusiastic smile to the two finalists. "Drew, Takuya...do you think you should win because you're the best player? Or should you win because you're the most deserving? And why?"
"The criteria you should judge us on needs to be based on who played the best game," replied Drew. He gave a long pause to collect his thoughts. "It shouldn't be a test of who played the hardest, or who played with the most determination, or who played with the most obstacles to overcome. The title of Sole Survivor should be given to the person who simply played the best game. And I believe that's me."
"I disagree. I don't think Drew played the best game." Takuya said.
"I had the best strategy," argued Drew.
"That might be true, but I don't think you played the best game overall. Survivor...is not just about strategy." Takuya made a face. He stuck his tongue out as he spoke. "You can't come here and vote for the person who had the best strategy. That's such a textbook decision!"
Takuya tapped his foot impatiently on the ground.
"You need to take account of the circumstances around that strategy. A strategy that worked for Drew doesn't mean it'd work well for me," said Takuya. He glanced at James, who remained emotionless. "And I mean...Drew had it easy. He was on the winning tribe, he had a majority alliance, and quite frankly, he didn't have to do shit to get to the Final Two."
"And that's because I played the best game," said Drew.
"I busted my ass to get to where I am today! And I'm the most deserving to win because I played the best game!" Takuya exclaimed.
"You worked hard, but that doesn't mean you played the best game." Drew shrugged his shoulders in dismissal.
Before Takuya could open his mouth to fire an angry rebut, James suddenly interrupted him. He flashed a weak smile at the finalists.
"That's all I'm looking for." James said, bowing slightly to the two men. "Thanks for your time."
- - -
Cassidy was the final juror to address the two finalists. She took two steps forward before she stopped, and a crooked smirk splattered across her jagged face.
"I came here with a question in mind, but there's no need for it anymore." Cassidy said, her voice beaming with confidence. "I've already made up my mind. I only have a few comments to make."
She took a few more steps forward, bringing herself closer to the two men.
"Drew, you did not answer honestly to May. You forgot to mention that you also lied to me. You never told me that you were the one who masterminded Butch's departure, you lying bastard! All this time, I thought it was the work of Brock and his little gang." Cassidy made an annoyed clicking sound with her tongue. "You're lucky that you didn't blindside me, boy. Or I would've ripped you a new asshole!"
Drew smirked, but did not say anything to provoke Cassidy.
"And Takuya, oh dear Takuya...I felt like playing a violin for you whenever you spoke tonight! Do you really see yourself as an underdog? Because let's face it...you're more like a pile of dog shit!" Cassidy let out a malicious snicker. "I don't give a damn if you fought through four world wars and a sissy little tantrum, the fact remains – you played a horrible game!"
Takuya's nostrils flared angrily.
"Here's the bottom line, both of you are selfish and egoistical little bitches. In fact, I think Drew's a bigger bitch than Takuya and I combined!" Cassidy laughed in a shrill voice. "But I'll give props where they're due. Drew, you played a great game and I have to respect you for it. I've watched you at every tribal council and damn, you know what you're doing! While everyone is fumbling around in paranoia, I see you sitting pretty with that smug smirk on your face. You're the undisputed mastermind of this game."
Cassidy folded her arms across her chest. She suddenly turned around to address the six jurors.
"My fellow jury members, I ask that you vote as I do – for Drew, the rightful winner of this game. If that scumbag Takuya won the game, there would be a great injustice committed in this tribal council. He created too many mistakes, made too many enemies, and conducted too many inconsistencies to his strategy. It's clear to me that Takuya Kanbara had no idea what he was doing in this game. In fact, I think he only knew how to drool over that whore of a girlfriend..."
"Go to hell, Cassidy!" Takuya shouted, leaping up from his seat. Drew held him down, albeit the Pokemon Coordinator was only doing it to gain brownie points from the jury.
Cassidy smirked in response. She knew that would incite an angry and mindless response from Takuya. She had been waiting for this moment since she was voted out. This was her last chance to sabotage Takuya in front of the jury. He had ruined her game before, and now she was doing exactly the same thing to his.
"Anyway, I'm done here." Cassidy shrugged her shoulders. "Don't sweat it, Drew. You and I both know that you've already won this game."
- - -
A ghastly silence filled the tribal council set for a while after Cassidy stated her case. Professor Birch took a deep breath. He was still recovering from the blazing tension in the atmosphere – and he was just a spectator! He glanced over at the real victims of this process, Drew and Takuya, both men looked worn out and in Takuya's case, he was fuming. But the game was not over yet. The two finalists still had to make their closing statements, and the seven jurors still had to cast their votes.
The end was near, but the game was far from over.
"Takuya and Drew, the jury has spoken, but you get the last word." Professor Birch smiled sympathetically at the two men. "Here's your final chance to convince them why you deserve the million dollars." He paused and shifted his gaze towards the green-haired Pokemon Coordinator. "Drew, we'll start with you."
Drew stood up from his seat. Once again, he found himself facing an unresponsive jury. Their expressions were blank. Not one person was smiling at him. Drew did not know if he should interpret this as a good or bad sign. Nonetheless, he began speaking.
"Let me begin by saying that I'm thankful to be here. Believe it or not, I do feel humbled by this amazing experience. Like all of you, I had my highs and my lows in this game. But I must reiterate one thing – I have no regrets. I do not regret the lies I have told, I do not regret the betrayals I have committed, and I do not regret the votes I have cast. I played the game the way it is meant to be played. Yes, I might have ruffled some feathers and yes, I might have hurt some feelings. But I believe you have to be ruthless and manipulative in order to win this game. That's what I did and I hope you'll respect my strategy. As I conclude, I ask you once again to put aside your bias and keep an open mind. I did play the best game, whether you like it or not."
Drew finished his closing statement with a polite smile at the jury. Once again, they showed no response, although James seemed to have a pensive expression on his face. But it didn't matter at this point. The game was entirely out of Drew's hands.
Takuya stood up next, looking less confident than he felt at the beginning of tribal council. Cassidy's personal attack unnerved him, but he made a surprising recovery considering the circumstances. He surveyed the jury of seven with a watchful eye. They were waiting for him to speak.
"Alright, this is it! The moment we've all be waiting for. I don't have a lot to add, so I guess I'll finish off by addressing each of you personally...with an apology, because I sure as hell have a lot to apologize! Cassidy, I'm sorry that you have so much hatred pent up inside yourself. JP, I'm sorry that I wasn't a good enough friend. Casey, I'm sorry that I hid the reward from Gorebyss. Rika, I'm sorry that you aren't sitting next to me tonight. May, I'm sorry that I voted out Takato. TK, I'm sorry that I injured your leg. And James, I'm sorry that I'm a coward and I didn't have the courage to face you in the Final Two."
He paused, flashing a sincere smile at the jury of seven.
"In conclusion, I apologize to you for all the wrongs I've committed in this game. And now, I hope you'll be the bigger person and forgive me."
Takuya sat down and sighed in relief. Now that his speech was over, his gaze evaded making any contact with the jurors. He did not want to know what they thought of him. He was just glad that this process was finally over.
"It's time for the final vote." Professor Birch said, clapping his hands together once. He turned to the seven jurors with a stern expression. "Jury, you must now decide which player deserves the one million dollars and the rightful title of Sole Survivor. Let me remind you that you're casting a vote for the winner tonight. You're writing the name of the person you want to see win this game."
Professor Birch paused as a few jurors nodded their heads in understanding.
"Okay, it's time to vote." Professor Birch announced, "Cassidy, you're up first."
The feisty Team Rocket member smirked and got out of her seat. She walked with a confident and noticeable stride as she crossed the bridge to arrive at the voting booth. She stared at the ink marker and the piece of parchment with a sense of familiarity emerging from her memory. It had been a long time since Cassidy last cast a vote, but she knew exactly what she was doing.
Cassidy wrote down four letters on her parchment. She held up her vote in front of the cameras, proudly presenting the name "Drew".
"There was no question in my mind that you deserve my vote tonight. Then again, anybody could have substituted your spot, and I still wouldn't have voted for Takuya. If that trashy, obnoxious, abrasive, brainless, and utterly despicable scumbag is the winner of this game, I'd rather gag myself, thank you very much."
She made a face as she folded her vote in half. She dumped it into the voting urn.
"But I'm glad you're the guy sitting next to Takuya tonight, because you do deserve it, Drew. You played all these suckers like the puppets that they are. I kept sitting on the jury, wondering if you can pull it off. You did, and it was quite a spectacle! They try to vote you out, but they never succeeded. That's because you're invincible, Drew. And that's why you're the Sole Survivor."
JP Shibayama was the second person to vote. Staring grimly at the blank parchment below him, the chubby Frontier gave a dramatic sigh. He hated doing this, he really did. After contemplating between the two names in his head, JP finally wrote down four letters on the parchment. He voted for Drew.
As he presented the parchment to the cameras, JP found himself at a loss of words. Thirty nine days ago, this vote would have undoubtedly read Takuya's name on it. After all, Takuya was supposed to be his lifelong friend. But all it took was one heartbreaking betrayal from Takuya, and it was enough for JP to declare the friendship between them officially over. Unfortunately, JP Shibayama was not a forgiving man. And as much as he tried to gather all the goodness in his heart, he could not find the inner strength to forgive Takuya.
"Dude, this hurts. Takuya, believe me...this hurts me more than it hurts you." JP sighed. He gave a short pause as he hanged his head in grief. "But you were supposed to be my friend, Takuya. And true friends don't screw over each other for some chick. Not only that, but voting me out also handicapped you for the rest of the game. It wasn't even a smart move, because I would've looked out for you, but you screwed me over first. Big mistake."
He shook his head rapidly, almost as if he was trying to erase the thought from his head.
"Worst of all, it was me who saved you from getting voted out! If it wasn't for me, you wouldn't even be here in the first place! So Takuya, I give you life in this game, and now I take it away from you."
JP sighed again. He dumped the vote angrily into the urn. He looked at the cameras again with a reluctant smile.
"Drew, congratulations...you win my vote. You betrayed me too, but at least you had a legitimate reason for doing so. I must admit, I did screw you over first...so the sting doesn't hurt that bad. It's an eye for an eye, I guess. Hey, I always knew you were a smart guy, so I can't fault you for outsmarting me first. Good job, dude."
After the Frontier, Casey went to cast her ballot. She returned to her seat with a giddy little smile on her face.
Rika was the next person to arrive at the voting booth. She wore a thin, wry smile as she wrote down Takuya's name on the parchment. She did not feel obliged to cast this vote out of loyalty, but rather the defiant Rika was not about to let this tribal council become a one-sided affair. Cassidy could bark out senseless orders all she wanted, but Rika would always be a rebel at heart.
"Goggle-head, I didn't think you could do it after I left. But you went ahead and won all those immunity challenges. Now, I see you in the Final Two with a solid chance of winning. I don't know how you do it, but you're full of surprises."
The smile on her face evolved into a genuine grin.
"Takuya, I want you to win. And when you do, I want you to take this vote and shove it up Cassidy's ass."
Rika laughed as she placed her folded piece of parchment inside the voting urn. That felt good.
The fifth person to vote tonight was May. She flashed a quick smile at the cameras before she picked up the marker and wrote down a name on the parchment. When she held it up in front of the cameras, she revealed that she had cast the second vote for Takuya tonight.
"I'm voting for Takuya because he is a true survivor. You...you have to be one of the toughest guys I've ever met in my life. I can't think of a stage in the game when the odds weren't stacked against your favour, yet you managed to overcome all those obstacles and rise to the top."
She grinned as she folded her parchment in half. She placed the vote inside the urn.
"I know how it feels to be an underdog. I know how it feels to have the whole tribe against you, because I've been there before. And to see you sitting out there tonight with that big goofy grin on your face, it makes me want to smile as well...because I admire you, Takuya. I admire you and your story of the underdog who fought many battles and won the war."
The sixth vote came from TK Takaishi, a passionate fan of the game. He had been so impressed by a certain finalist's performance that it persuaded him to vote for this person. He returned to his seat, flashing a pleasant smile at both Drew and Takuya, hoping one of them would catch his hidden message.
At last, James cast the seventh and final vote of the night. The Team Rocket member wore an apologetic expression as he wrote down a name on the parchment. He felt guilty because he was defying what Drew had told the jurors to do at the beginning of tonight. When casting this vote, James had not separated his emotions from his logic, but he did not care. The person who James thought played the best game was not the same person who James wanted to win the most. And in the end, James' heart conquered over his brain and logic.
When the final juror returned from voting, Professor Birch went to retrieve the votes. He came back a few minutes later with the voting urn. Everybody stared at him in anticipation.
"Sorry to keep you waiting." Professor Birch said, smiling at the two finalists. "But you're going have to wait a little longer."
Takuya dropped his head into his knees and laughed. A smiling Drew just shook his head in disappointment.
"I'll not be reading the votes tonight, so the pressure is off for now." Professor Birch grinned. He shifted his body so that he now faced the jury as well. "It has been a tough game for all of us. Let us pat ourselves on the back and enjoy a well-earned break. We'll find out who is the Sole Survivor a little later on."
After the professor made his announcement, the seven jurors got up and approached the two finalists with congratulatory handshakes and hugs. The sombre atmosphere was replaced by a more celebratory one. A night of intense drama had faded away. Only the ten attendees knew what happened on this tribal council night.
- - -
Months later, the entire cast was gathered inside a television studio in front of a live audience. The audience consisted of their friends and families, as well as a small number of passionate viewers who purchased tickets to watch this Survivor finale take place. Everybody was an avid fan of the show who watched all of the episodes, yet none of them knew the outcome of the game.
Except one person.
Professor Birch arrived at the television studio, holding the voting urn in his hands. The audience erupted in cheers.
"Welcome back. It's nice to see everyone again." Professor Birch said, smiling at nobody in particular. He then focused his gaze on the two finalists, who were sitting across from where the professor stood. "Takuya and Drew, you both look great."
"It's amazing what a few extra pounds can do for your image!" Takuya laughed.
"Let's cut to the chase. I have the votes with me." Professor Birch said. He was forced to pause when the audience suddenly erupted in cheers again. Once they calmed down, the professor was able to continue his sentence, "Before I reveal the votes, does anyone have anything to say? Speak now or forever hold your peace."
"Actually, I do!" JP raised his arm in the air. Everybody turned their attention towards the chubby Frontier, who was sitting on the bleachers with the rest of the jurors. "Having watched all of the episodes, I'd like to retract my vote for Drew. I don't want that guy to win anymore."
"You realize that has no effect on the final outcome, right?" Professor Birch asked with uncertainty.
"Yeah, I know what's done is done. But I just want everybody to know...if I can cast my vote now, I'd vote for Takuya to win the game." JP shrugged his shoulders.
His statement was met with approving applause from the audience. Professor Birch had to wait once again for the crowd to settle down.
"We'll keep that in mind, JP." Professor Birch smiled. He turned towards the two finalists. "Takuya and Drew, are you feeling nervous?"
"Yeah, a little! How can we not be?" Takuya grinned. He pumped his fist in the air with enthusiasm.
"How confident are you about your chances of winning?" Professor Birch asked.
"I don't know. It's fifty-fifty." Drew exchanged a quick glance with Takuya. The Pokemon Coordinator then smiled faintly at the professor. "We'll find out now, right?"
"Alright. It's time." Professor Birch grinned. He rubbed his hands together in anticipation before he put his hand inside the voting urn. "Just to be clear, the jury has cast their votes for the winner. So, you want to see your name on the ballots tonight. With that said...let's read the votes."
Professor Birch pulled out the first parchment from the urn. He unfolded the vote and turned it over.
"Takuya," read Professor Birch.
The audience began clapping in applause. Takuya flashed them a quick appreciative smile before he turned to face Rika and grinned at her. That was her vote. He recognized her thin and scratchy handwriting.
The professor put his hand inside the urn and brought out a second parchment. He turned it over.
"Drew." Professor Birch announced.
Drew nodded his head, smiling humbly at the sight of his name on the parchment. He knew this vote came from Cassidy.
Professor Birch took out the third vote from the urn. He gave a long dramatic pause before he flipped the parchment over.
"Drew." Professor Birch said with an impish smile. "That's two votes for Drew, and one vote for Takuya. It takes four votes to win."
This vote belonged to JP. The chubby Frontier smiled awkwardly as he recognized his handwriting on the parchment. He looked somewhat embarrassed and remorseful to have cast this vote for Drew. Having watched the episodes at home, JP was shocked at the vulgarity of Drew's confessionals. The harsh insults and snide remarks rolled off his tongue like a fluent language. This was particularly prominent when Drew was ripping JP into pieces in his confessionals. And it was then JP finally saw Drew for the cruel and callous person that he was. It might be too late to have a change of heart, but JP now found himself rooting for Takuya to win instead.
He only hoped that his vote would not affect Takuya's chances in any way.
"The fourth vote..." Professor Birch said as he dragged out another piece of parchment from the urn. He unfolded the vote and turned it over. "Drew."
Drew looked delighted and a little surprised to receive a third vote. He looked over at the jurors and eventually met with Casey's gaze. This was her vote. Unsurprisingly, the petite baseball fan had followed Cassidy's orders and voted for Drew to win. In the end, Casey determined that Drew was the lesser of two evils – the person who had wronged her least. After all, a vote for Drew was a vote against Takuya.
And that thought made Casey happy.
"We now have three votes for Drew and only one for Takuya." Professor Birch said. He took a deep breath before he pulled out another parchment from the urn. "The fifth vote..."
He unfolded the vote and flipped it over.
"Takuya." Professor Birch declared.
Takuya looked grateful at the vote. He glanced over at May and mouthed the word "thank you" to the Pokemon Coordinator. She nodded in acknowledgement and smiled sweetly at him in return.
"Three votes for Drew and two votes for Takuya," said Professor Birch. He reached his hand inside the urn and pulled out the sixth parchment. He unfolded it and took a brief glance at the name.
The grin on his face widened.
He looked up at the two finalists, both of them grinning nervously at the results. Professor Birch thought about tempting them with another long dramatic pause, but he decided to make this revelation quick.
"The winner of Survivor: Dewford Islands..." Professor Birch announced as he flipped over the vote, "Drew!"
It took a few seconds before Drew registered the four familiar letters on the parchment, displaying his name in all its glory. It was his name. It was him. He was the winner.
He was the Sole Survivor.
The announcement was followed by a polite round of applause from the audience. It didn't sound as thunderous as expected, but Drew was so caught up in the moment that he didn't mind the minimal response. All that mattered to him now was his victory. He won. He won!
Drew turned his head towards the jury, searching for the jurors he had to thank. Cassidy, JP and Casey had all voted for him, but the fourth vote Drew received came from TK Takaishi. The blonde had been so impressed with Drew's calm and composed performance at tribal council that it convinced TK to vote for Drew as the winner. A fellow Huntail member for the victory, just as TK had hoped for.
And then, there was James. Drew shifted his gaze towards the Team Rocket member and read his expression. It was only now he caught the small dainty smile on James' face that he never caught before. James had voted for him too. It was James who gave Drew the fifth vote, cementing Drew's victory in place. His decision had been a surprise to everybody, most of all James himself. Because while James had been friends with Takuya, and while James genuinely believed Takuya played the best and most deserving game, it was Drew who James ultimately wanted to see win. Perhaps he was biased, but he wanted his first ally in Huntail and his Final Two partner take home the win. James might not be in the Final Two, but at least he could award his partner in crime with the victory.
"The winner is Drew! The one man who pulled the strings, the one man who masterminded the strategies, and the one man with an ego as tall as a mountain," declared Professor Birch with a wide cheeky smile. "Congratulations Drew on a game well played! And to Takuya, for being a worthy runner-up!"
Drew nodded his head eagerly as he turned over to Takuya. He grabbed Takuya's hand for a handshake, which soon evolved into a friendly and genuine hug. While the two of them might not have met eye to eye, Drew and Takuya acknowledged each other as serious competitors. They had both competed against each other in the journey of a lifetime. And now it was over.
Takuya Kanbara lost, taking home the respectable title of runner-up. He had fought hard and painful to reach the position he stood now, but the jury just didn't respect his game enough. Takuya had made one too many enemies, one too many arguments, and one too many mistakes. In the end, the flaws accumulated in his game, making it impossible for the jurors to award him with the win. His journey as an underdog was an admirable one, but Takuya was destined to lose.
Soon, the players gathered around Drew in a circle, chattering, laughing, and praising the Pokemon Coordinator for a game well played. Drew found himself speechless, for he was overwhelmed by the results. It didn't hit him that he won one million dollars until Professor Birch approached him, pulling out a cheque from his laboratory jacket. His hard work in the game had transformed into reality.
And the reality for Drew came with six zeroes attached.
Thus, Drew won the game in a vote of 5-2. Not only was he the winner of Survivor: Dewford Islands, but he was also the mastermind, the millionaire, and most importantly...
He was the Sole Survivor.
- - -
Author's Notes: After a year of hard work, the story is finally finished! Thank you to all the readers and reviewers for devoting your time to the story. Any comments you leave behind are much appreciated! Please remember to take the survey - the last and final one - to summarize your final thoughts on the overall story! And if you want any more news on future projects, make sure you check my website. Anyway, thank you!