|Posted on Jul 14, 2011 11:30am|
Squatting beside the Kucha tribe's fire, Michael Skupin, the software publisher from White Lake, Michigan, blew on the coals to stimulate the flames...and then the unthinkable happened. Michael inhaled smoke and passed out, falling into the fire. When he regained consciousness, he pushed himself out of the fire, inadvertently putting his hands and wrists directly into the burning coals. With raw flesh hanging from his charred hands, Mike plunged himself into the cold river water to ease the pain, as his shocked tribemates tried to assess what had just happened.
The Kucha tribe immediately realized the severity of the situation as Mike's agony intensified. Elisabeth tried to reassure Mike, "Stay strong...help is on the way." Alicia gave him some water to drink while Rodger instructed Mike to stay in the shallow part of the water in case he were to pass out again.
When the medical staff arrived, they administered a dressing to Mike's hands and wrists. With the arrival of the helicopter, Mike was loaded safely aboard and looked back at his tribe: "I am looking at some brave and beautiful people that I have grown to love so much. You will be fine without me, you guys know what to do."
As the helicopter doors were shut in front of them, Elisabeth, Rodger, Nick, Jeff, and Alicia were left behind. As the chopper rose into flight, the dust circled as the remaining members of the Kucha tribe stood courageously in the eye of the storm. Mike's tribe vowed to remain tough, but they could not stop the tears that rolled down their faces as they watched their tribemate depart in agony. Their tribe's loss certainly reminded everyone that Survivor is more than just a game.
A torrential thunderstorm swept through the Kucha camp the night of the previous Tribal Council, when Kimmi Kappenberg was voted out. Upon their return to their shelter, a cold and wet Kucha tribe huddled together for warmth and comfort. Elisabeth Filarski confided, "This is crazy. When it rains here it means you are cold at night. It puts you at such an extreme disadvantage. It takes us a day to recover from it. There is nothing worse than being cold at night, but cold and wet...stick a fork in me."
Things turned frisky at Ogakor as Jerri and Amber fantasized about eating chocolate. But it wasn't hunger that was prompting their fantasies. Explained Jerri, "Chocolate releases the same endorphins as sex and because none of us are having sex, that's probably why we keep craving the chocolate." She added, "In my wildest fantasy, I can picture myself pouring hot chocolate over some dude's hot body." She went so far as to suggest that her dreams involved fellow tribemember Colby Donaldson.
Responded Colby, "I may be a lot of things, but I ain't no Hershey Bar."
With one chicken left, the Kucha tribe realized there was an abundance of chicken feed still in the camp. The hungry yet resourceful tribe noticed that kernels of corn were mixed in the feed, so they separated the corn from the feed and put it in a pan over the fire. Exclaimed Mike, "It's popping like popcornâ€¦. It is popcorn!" Skeptical at first, Jeff later admitted, "The whole thought of eating chicken feed just made me sick, but the more I eat it, the better it gets!" And so was born a new Survivor cuisine, Kucha Corn. The delicacy brought the tribe's morale to another high, and they ate the Kucha Corn all day and night.
Fried Green Tomatoes
The Ogakor tribe's food situation was far more dire than their opponents', causing their disposition to be proportionately more cranky. But, never giving up, Jerri was determined to change things around Ogakor. With a fresh tomato plant in hand, she announced, "I want to tantalize our taste buds by making fried green tomatoes this evening." After one bite of the raw tomato, professional chef Keith Famie lamented, "You don't make fried green tomatoes with cherry tomatoes. Tina Wesson, mom and personal nurseAnother day on the vine and those would have been perfect." Jerri accused Keith of being pessimistic and unsupportive. And their bickering escalated. "Stop it! Both of you, or you're going to time out!" yelled Tina, a mom and personal nurse. Later, she explained, "I'm not their mother; it's not my position to get in the middle, but to be honest, one of the problems needs to go. Jerri makes me feel uncomfortable, and it's no fun living in that type of environment."
Observed Colby, "Keith and Jerri are like two alley cats scratching at each other, and it's ridiculous that the rest of us have to sit through all of this."
Reward Challenge: Blind Leading the Blind
The tribes received treemail notifying them of their next Reward Challenge, "Blind Leading the Blind." In this game, each tribe must choose a member who will be the "eyes" of the tribe. Kucha chose Nick; Ogakor chose Jerri. The others are blindfolded. The "eyes" sit atop two spotter towers and guide their tribemates through various tasks by instructing them where to move and how. The first team to complete all the tasks wins ice cold Mountain Dew soda and tasty Doritos chips.
Ogakor had a definitive lead as they approached the end of the challenge, but a blindfolded Amber veered way off track in the last leg as Jerri tried desperately to guide her to the finish. Her valiant effort wasn't enough: Kucha's Nick Brown successfully guided his tribemates straight to the end, passing Amber and winning the reward. As Kucha celebrated, a sobbing Amber could only reflect on how close they came to winning. Kucha enjoyed their reward as the defeated Ogakor tribe solemnly returned to their camp.
Merge on the Mind
The tension in the camp was evident as the Ogakor tribe members realized the importance of winning the next immunity challenge. As Amber stated, "If we lose the challenge today, we will be down 4 people to 6. After the merge, the other tribe will just pick us off one by one." Jerri took a breather and walked off to contemplate her strategy alone. "I see the merge as a way to finagle my way into the other tribe and freak some people out. If they are going to pick us off one by one, I am at least going to cause a big ruckus going down," she promised.
Colby had a more positive outlook of what was to come. "I have to be a lot more selfish when we merge because at that point it's all about getting yourself as far as you can go. I am not going to sit around and let them pick me off."
Bittersweet Results for Ogakor
In the wake of Michael's accident, Ogakor received treemail notifying them that an accident at Kucha had occurred and that one of the Kucha tribemates had been evacuated. As a result, the two tribes will merge with five members each.
The news was bittersweet to Ogakor: they had escaped Tribal Council but were saddened to hear about the accident, although they knew none of the details, including who had been hurt. Unexpectedly, the field had been leveled for the upcoming merge.
Rodger Bingham, the 52-year-old farmer/school teacher from Crittenden, Kentucky proclaimed, "We are going to win or lose this thing as a team, and we are going to stick together. Possibly, Mike's accident might have brought some of us to the realization that there are some things more important than the million dollars." These wise words were in the minds of everyone at the Kucha tribe. Elisabeth expressed great emotion, too, reflecting on the day's event.
Kucha member Jeff Varner also reflected, "Ogakor must be feeling very relieved that we are merging evenly. They probably will have compassion for what happened to Mike, but they weren't there...they didn't hear it." And then he vowed, "We're going to kill them. We are going to eat them up and spit them out. That's the last thing Mike said to us before he left, and that's exactly what we are going to do."
Michael Skupin Update
Mike was later diagnosed with third-degree burns to both his hands. After successful surgery, Mike has returned home safely and has regained the full use of both of his hands. He later stated, "My experience in the Outback was absolutely incredible. Actually, it was the most positive thing to ever happen in my life." Mike's only regret was that he couldn't survive longer on the land he had grown to love.