‘TOWFI’ ousts Adam

It was Gross Food Challenge time for the contestants on this week’s episode of “Take Our Word For It Survivor: Ben’s House,” the semester-long radio interpretation of the hit CBS reality show “Survivor.” The program, set in Adams, Mass. and recorded during the first week of Winter Study, pits the warriors of the Arlas against the lazy Lotharios of the Pencers in a battle for backyard supremacy.

“Gross Food” is a staple of Survivor programs worldwide, offering an easy way to help the audience sympathize with the plight of the contestants. Few among us would readily consume a bale of spider monkeys were we not put under serious duress; the challenge thus reveals which of the competitors is most willing to shed themselves of the gastronomical prejudices permeating post-industrial society.

The soup du jour for “TOWFI Survivor,” however, failed to live up to the high standards of its CBS counterpart, offering up nothing on the menu unable to be found in a typical household. The complete rundown of the gross items – dog food, cat food, a raw egg, a spoonful of mayonnaise, dog jerky, *NSYNC fruit snacks, and a pair of Snickers bars – really fails to turn the stomach in the same way that “eye of newt” or “liver of muskrat” does.

Host Topher Goggin ’02 and producers Mark Robertson ’02 and Ben Chaffee ’02 got around the food familiarity by making the Immunity Challenge a relay race, where contestants would have to empty their mouths before the next competitors could begin their meals. Contestants ran up to the table containing two shopping bags and dig out the food product they had chosen with their teammates.

The challenge began on an even keel, as James “Big Dog” Kingsley ’02 – chosen to eat twice by his Arla teammates – polished off the dog kibble comfortably, matched by the cat food consumption of Rachael Seltman ’05. Ari “The Mouth” Schoenholtz ’05 answered back with a cat food outburst, while Julia Karoly ’03 downed her raw egg in shot fashion.

Next up for the Pencer Tribe was “Senor El Presidente” Drew Newman ’04, given the seemingly simple task of eating a pair of mini-size Snickers bars. The average kid on Halloween does this in roughly three seconds – Drew clocked in at 2:27, a full 20 seconds behind the mark of Elliot Gansner ’02 in the 200 Breaststroke this weekend at NESCACs. The problem? Apparently Mr. Newman didn’t quite understand the rules, tried to eat both Snickers simultaneously, and just couldn’t get his mouth around them.

Regardless, the Arla Tribe took momentary advantage of the delay, with Pat “PayKo” McCurdy ’02 going for the egg (“an alien substance,” he would later say) and Terri O’Brien ’02 having her way with the dog jerky. Brandi Brown ’04 was thus spotted a significant lead with the *NSYNC snacks, an opportunity she fully wasted, chewing the fruit snacks languorously and taking a full 2:21 to finish. By the time she was finished, hard work by Shamus Brady ’04 on the kibble and Brooks Foehl ’88 on the jerky had tied things up for the Pencers.

Adam Cole ’03 conquered the feared mayonnaise spoon in seemingly good time, setting up the Big Dog to close out with the candy bars. Unfortunately, they hadn’t accounted for the skills of Jed “The Urban Jedi” Mularski ’02 – Jedrek was able to “force” down the gummy simulacra of the hated boy band in only 46 seconds, setting up his teammate Kate Leonard ’03 for the win, which she accomplished by swallowing the spoonful of mayonnaise in a single gulp. The comeback was complete, and the Arlas were sent back to Tribal Council for the second time in as many weeks.

The Council was more animated than in the previous episode, with two clear targets in view: Brandi, who understandably choked on the foulness of pop music fruit snacks, and Adam, who despite dealing well with the mayonnaise, continued to attract unpleasant vibes from his fellow tribesmen. With Terri seemingly oblivious to the emerging unholy trinity alliance of Ari, Pat and James, the voting continued.

Splitting the opposition, Adam and Brandi each attracted three votes in the opening round. In the event of a tie, the two “losers” get to plead their case to the remaining tribespeople, who then must vote again, picking only between the two. This process tends to favor the most eloquent speaker. In this regard, both failed miserably, with debate team member Brandi claiming her survival would bring about “good times,” and Adam claiming he was a strong player “physiologically.”

The re-vote saw Ari and James switch their earlier choices, leaving the tally at two apiece and sending the process into the tiebreaker: previous votes. Adam, who had picked up two last week, was thus the victim on this episode of “TOWFI Survivor,” condemning the swimmer and member of the Garfield Republicans Club into the living room to chill with Rina for a bit and ponder how it all went wrong. With Adam’s Christmas ornament smashed upon cinder blocks, the Arlas fall behind by two contestants in the early going, leaving them vulnerable to future Pencer aggression – and without fresh water.

Next week, Topher promises to turn “TOWFI Survivor” on its head, by offering a twist “that could completely reshape the game.” Find out what this diabolical scheme is by tuning in at 9 p.m. this Thursday evening on 91.9 WCFM.