A stunning stroke of engineering genius from the Arla Tribe earned them their first win of the season on this week’s episode of “Take Our Word For It Survivor: Ben’s House.” The previously-undefeated Pencer Tribe was forced to jettison a member for the first time; victim to the tribal council was Rachel “The Singing Nun” Seltman ’05, whose untimely demise came a week after she helped launch the Pencers to immunity in Episode Four.
“TOWFI Survivor” operates much in the same fashion as the hit CBS television show, with 14 competitors set loose in the wilderness with only the clothes on their backs and a single luxury item to compete for a phenomenal grand prize of $500. The exotic locale for the show is the Adams, Mass. residence of Ben Chaffee ’02, whose parents generously volunteered their back yard for the competition, which was taped on the first Sunday of Winter Study.
This week’s installment was the last before the tribal merger, which was set to occur when only eight competitors remained. With five shows over and six Survivors eliminated, the final octet will now come together to operate as a single unit, with Immunity and Reward Challenges conducted in head-to-head fashion, rather than as a two-team competition.
Only a feat of skill from the two remaining Arlas – James “Big Dog” Kingsley ’02 and Terri “Cunningham” O’Brien ’02 – prevented a total first-round sweep for the Pencer tribe, who throughout the competition had dominated their Arla brethren physically, mentally and spiritually. The Immunity Challenge of the week called upon the tribes to construct a one-person sled, which would then be used to transport a tribesperson across the relatively snow-free lawn of the Chaffee home in a type of relay race.
“TOWFI” icon and Survivor host Topher Goggin ’02 introduced the challenge to the assembled group, who were allowed to use only the person and belongings of two tribe members to construct said sled. Luxury items could only be used if they belonged the person who was actually competing – for example, the Pencers could not use the machete of Jed “The Gypsy King” Mularski ’02 unless he were one of the two elected competitors.
As it turned out, Jedrick was not chosen to represent his tribe – stepping up to the front were Shamus Brady ’04 and Drew “Bob Vila” Newman ’04, whose seven years of experience in technical theater had put him on the cutting edge of personal land-sled construction technology. The move perhaps displayed a willingness on the part of the tribal leadership to weed out two of the less popular Pencers – Newman had been heard to rub some of his fellow tribespeople the wrong way, while the revelation that Brady goes on dates had clearly engendered some suspicion among the Pencer faithful.
Both duos were given a Rubbermaid garbage can lid, two pieces of rope, a bungee cord, a carabineer, a door handle, a box of nails, a hammer, a carpet knife and a roll of duct tape with which to do their dirty work. With the clock ticking, the Arla tribe discovered a fine technical solution to the problem – O’Brien kneeled on the lid with the rope looped behind her knees for stability. The system allowed her to hold on to the rim of the lid for stability, while the Big Dog would be able to run with the sled without fear of the rope coming loose.
On the other hand, the Pencer designers were proving to be completely clueless, displaying problem-solving skills to rival those of a third grader. It was decided eventually to have Newman duct-taped into the sled while holding the rope, with Brady pulling as fast as his skinny cross-country legs could carry him. Trial runs of this “plan” did not go well, with Newman heard to exclaim “Oh, hell,” after taking a particularly nasty tumble out of the harness, with the sled just not moving well on the hard New England turf.
The Arla’s engineers, however, were busy tweaking their model, greasing up the bottom of their Rubbermaid lid with the apple pie left behind by Ari “Naked Run” Schoenholtz ’05 after his expulsion from the group. “Birds are going to flock to this trash can like the salmon to Capistrano,” said Kingsley, displaying his trademark “rapist wit.” This “Dumb and Dumber” reference apparently went over the heads of the “TOWFI” group, who inexplicably attempted to correct the reference on the “Survivor” website – a black mark on the otherwise excellent survivor.williams.edu.
The race itself was no contest – it was like watching an old “Little Rascals” episode where the rich kids always win the soapbox derby. The Arlas dashed to victory in their high-powered racer. Newman played the role of Alfalfa to a T, complete with soot on his face as the metaphorical wheels fell off the Pencer car. Understandably jubilant, the Arlas quickly took their reward – immunity, along with a five-minute indoor bathroom break.
As has been the case, tribal council proved to be a straightforward affair, even for the neophyte Pencers. A consortium arranged by Brooks “Boss Tweed” Foehl ’88 quickly targeted the youngest member of the tribe – Seltman, whose habit of breaking into song at any provocation had proven to be really annoying. It was, nonetheless, the first loss for the tribe, which may have shaken the confidence of its members heading into the merger.
Next week – Drew meets Ben Chaffee’s little sister! A former Arla makes like Broadway Joe and predicts an upset! Everyone finally starts picking on the old guy! It all can be found Thursday at 9 p.m., only on WCFM 91.9.