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It wouldn’t be a trip to “Survivor” without the traditional Press vs. Dream Team immunity challenge. (Note: The Dream Team is a bunch of tanned, buff, bad asses who run the challenges to make sure they’re safe, fair, and entertaining).
I’ve competed in seven of these challenges. The first one in Gabon was a humiliating, soul-sucking, heartache-inducing nightmare. The Dream Team treated me the same was a dog treats a freshly cut lawn.
So, I decided to win the next six.
(Yeah, it’s lame to brag about wins in an exhibition competition, but I truly have so little else. Let me have this.)
With my good name cleared, I’ve been looking for new ways to get motivated for the games, and this season the producers were nice enough to give me one…
The Hidden Idol
“Entertainment Weekly” writer Dalton Ross has been begging “Survivor” to hide an idol at an immunity challenge for years. They finally listened to him. And since it was his idea, they wanted him to test it out.
The way it works is; a clue is hidden at camp. If you find the clue, it will tell you exactly where the challenge idol is hidden. It’s up to the individual to figure out how best to retrieve it and stash it without anyone noticing.
So, the producers took Dalton aside and told him where the idol was hidden.
My mission was now clear; I was going to beat him to the punch, watch him like a hawk, and claim immunity for myself.
In keeping with the theme of Second Chances, this challenge was a mash-up of competitions that appeared in “Survivor: Samoa” and “Survivor: Blood vs. Water.”
For the first part, the teams will have to run up and over three A-frames. The first two A-frames are a medium height, while the third one is much larger. Three members of the team will need to do this while carrying a heavy rope.
When the crate reaches the end of the course, the players will untie knots to open the crate, then use the puzzle pieces they find inside to complete a picture puzzle. The first tribe to complete the puzzle wins respect.
There were plenty of press members at the event so the challenge wouldn’t be straight up Press vs. Dream Team. It was Press vs. Press with Dream Teamers sprinkled in to even up the sides. I made sure to be on Dalton’s team.
We gathered at the starting mat and went over strategies.
Finally, “Survivor” host and Emmy-hoarder Jeff Probst said the magic words and we were off.
Getting up the first A-frame was a piece of cake, getting down wasn’t quite as smooth. You see, Dalton Ross was one of the people selected to carry a rope. As I scurried over the top, I didn’t notice that he had some slack dangling over the other side. On the way down my foot got caught and I was sent tumbling down buff over teakettles.
In fact, when it was over the medics told me they were about to stop the challenge to check on me. But I just popped back up as if nothing had happened so they assumed I was fine.
And they were right, I was fine. However, it did make me wonder why Dalton was trying to kill me.
The race up the second A-frame wasn’t quite as successful. I tried and lost my footing on the first attempt, and was about to fail my second attempt when none other than “Survivor” Hall of Famer and my occasional Press challenge enemy Parvati Shallow reached out for me. I grabbed her hand “Cliffhanger”-style and was able to get over.
The third A-frame (the much higher one) required us to climb one of the CBS cameramen like a ladder. Hey, whatever it takes.
By the time we were down, the other tribe was at work pulling their crate along the course. Uh oh.
Our crate team went to work, but wasn’t having much luck. At one point, Parvati even had to run up to the crate to fix the rope as it had gotten stuck.
The other team had a significant lead by the time Parade.com writer Josh Wigler and I had a chance to tackle the puzzle.
The puzzle was the same style as the one that gave Tina Wesson fits in “Blood vs. Water” where you have to place double sided poles in the proper order to create a picture. One of the rules states that you can’t create the image on the ground and then move it into the frame. So, it involves a lot of trial and error to get everything placed correctly.
Fortunately, Mr. Wigler and I were in the zone. We had puzzle pieces bouncing in and out of the frame at a furious pace. And, once we figured out how to do it two at a time, we were really in business.
It didn’t hurt that the commentary we were hearing from Probst was not very positive when it came to our opponents’ puzzle.
Slowly but surely we were able to complete the puzzle and bask in the sweet sounds of Probst declaring us the victors. It was hugs and high-fives all around. I don’t know if seven wins in a row is a record, but it felt pretty good.
Quick Aside: Do you remember what my real goal was for this challenge? Because apparently I didn’t.
When the merriment was over, Probst approached Dalton and asked if he’d retrieved the idol. Dalton reached into his pocket and proved that he had.
Nobody saw him do it. Every person on our team knew he had the clue and not one of the eight people saw him grab it. It was like the second after Probst said, “Survivors, ready? Go!” the thought of the idol popped right out of my head.
It’s going to be an interesting season.
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes
“Survivor: Second Chance” will kick off with a special 90-minute premiere on Wednesday, September 23rd at 8 p.m. ET.