Age before beauty on ‘TOWFI’

And then there were four.

A hardy final quartet of competitors now awaits the grand finale of “Take Our Word For It Survivor: Ben’s House,” the semester-long radio reality program taped during Winter Study and broadcast on WCFM 91.9. Eliminated in this week’s episode was Brooks “Golden Oldie” Foehl ’88, elder statesman of the now-defunct Pencer Tribe and the odd old man out of the new Ribe Tribe.

Continuing in the theme established last week with their stunning betrayal of Shamus “Y Tu Mama Tambien” Brady ’04, an unholy alliance of Kate “Benedict” Leonard ’03 and Julia “Arnold” Karoly ’03 was responsible for the elimination of Foehl. The pair demonstrated a grasp of subterfuge and misdirection that would flatter a college admissions officer, enlisting the aid of James “LT” Kingsley ’02 to eliminate the hapless alum in defiance of conventional wisdom.

Indeed, much of the early part of the episode was dedicated to sorting out the confusion sown by the duo in the Tribal Council of two weeks prior. The sudden downfall of Brady and Jed “The Game” Mularski ’02 had roused this episode out of the naive stupor that had previously characterized much of the show. Many of the contestants seemed to still be in a state of shock following the surprise vote, with Drew “Danger” Newman ’04 among the most vocal of the group to condemn this tactical intrusion into their backstabbing-free sphere.

“What on earth happened there?” Newman wondered aloud. “Something’s going on. And this is total honesty – I have no idea what’s going on, and it sounds like some people don’t know what’s going on either. I stuck to the plan that I agreed to earlier.”

Other members of the “Survivor”-verse were a little more realistic about the cruel nature of the game, and none more so than Kingsley, the final ex-Arla in the game and a target of hostile intent since the Tribal Merger. “Once I missed out on that immunity, I thought I was pretty much done,” said the Big Dog. “I felt like a turkey right before Thanksgiving. It was kind of last minute – got talking to some people and got a little conspiracy to get somebody else out and it worked out.”

With the stakes continuing to rise and conspiracy running rampant among the tribespeople, immunity was clearly more desirable than ever. A masterstroke of planning from Topher “Top Cat” Goggin ’02 and the “TOWFI” staff, however, had ensured that obtaining it would not be simple. Ever with their finger on the pulse of the contest, the group had devised an Immunity Challenge of unparalleled fiendishness, even opting to offer up their bodies and belongings towards the goal of an appropriate test.

Chicken Bowling was the name of the game. Players would roll a frozen chicken across a snow-covered ice patch in the driveway of Ben Chaffee ’02 in an attempt to knock down six partially filled two-liter soft drink bottles. Two throws would be allowed in the first round, but only one would be allowed as the competition progressed, accompanied by a moving back of the line.

The “TOWFI” thinkers had even accounted for the overwhelmingly visual nature of bowling – merely listening to “pins” being knocked over doesn’t really help anyone, unless you’re Woody Harrelson from “Kingpin.” Fortunately for the radio audience, the competition was narrated by all-star announcer and part-time Amish bowler Mark Robertson ’02, whose junior high histrionics and borderline crazed commentary made for a far more enjoyable listening experience than one might have thought.

The competition itself was fraught with memorable moments. Karoly’s first throw took a ricochet and smashed into Chaffee’s foot, leaving the senior broadcaster with a metatarsal fracture that doctors say is very similar to David Beckham’s. Another incident saw Foehl miss most of the pins, only to have a sole Fanta bottle smash into the front of Goggin’s car, which was backlighting the snow-covered lanes. Only Kate Leonard failed to hit all six in the opening round – the treacherous skier couldn’t convert the tough 7-10 (or 4-6, if you will) split, pulling a Munson and leaving four competitors for the extra rounds.

With a greater distance separating pins and poultry in the OT, the level of difficulty was definitely up a notch. Newman and Karoly threw gutterballs with their lone efforts, while Foehl could only manage to hit the one off Goggin’s windshield. So when Kingsley stepped up to the line, expectations for the strong-throwing football player were fairly high; Robertson was nearly breathless with excitement, as Kingsley needed only a two-spot to insure himself immunity.

The Big Dog, however, is never one to play it safe. Displaying the nerve that has gotten him this far in the game, Kingsley unleashed “a blistering toss,” demolishing all six of the overmatched soft-drink containers and causing Robertson to yelp with glee. The crowd went nuts, and the victor leaped in the air, shouting “Nobody f–s with the Jesus!” (Complaints that Kingsley’s foot was over the line were said to be dealt with in a calm, reasonable manner.)

An entertaining Tribal Council was almost a given at this point. As Goggin indicated with menacing formality, the Big Dog’s immunity ensured a vote that could not break down along initial tribal lines. And speculation, for the most part, centered around Newman, the self-admitted youngest remaining competitor and clear target of ire for many of the remaining Survivors. Newman himself was convinced of his own downfall, saying while in the voting booth, “I knew after the last round that I was the next one to be chosen out.”

But it was not to be – three votes from Karoly, Leonard and Kingsley spelled the end for Foehl, whose demonstrated devious potential was feared by the powerful trio. Like Will Smith at the end of “Enemy of the State,” the only thing on Foehl’s mind was his wife and children, and the bespectacled one set off for home after an impressive run on the student-dominated program, having earned the trust and respect of one or two of the competitors.

The final episode and Grand Finale of “TOWFI Survivor: Ben’s House” will be presented this Thursday night at 10 p.m. in Goodrich Hall. The votes, tallied in the final episode, will be opened and read in person, and the $500 grand prize will be awarded. You can, as always, listen to all the Survivor action over the airwaves, live on WCFM 91.9.