Season 11: Episode 8 - BACK TO THE FARM: Brandon Bellinger Booted
Posted on Jul 14, 2011 11:30am

On night 21, after alliances and loyalties had been put to the test, Brandon Bellinger, the 22-year-old farmer from Manhattan, Kansas was sent home in a 6-4 vote. Disappointed, but with pride intact, he noted, "I played the game I came out here to play." Voting straight down tribal lines, the old Nakum members felt Brandon was a physical threat in the upcoming individual challenges, and he became the ninth person voted out of SURVIVOR: GUATEMALA. Feeling good about how he played the game, Brandon added, "I can walk away from this and take something pretty good with me."

Carrying their torches and new buffs, the Yaxha tribe made their way past croc-infested waters to the Nakum camp for the first-ever nighttime merge of SURVIVOR tribes. Knowing they faced an uphill battle, the soon-to-be-dissolved Yaxha tribe united for one last time in a group handshake and whispered, "One, two, three, team!" The Nakum tribemates were roused out of bed and astonished to find out the two tribes were merging in the middle of the night. "We're all thrown for a loop, and my head is spinning," exclaimed Stephenie. Although they were supposed to merge into one tribe, Jamie did not give Yaxha a warm welcome, saying, "There is not much room in the shelter, so I hope you don't mind sleeping outside."

Morning wood-gathering chores took on a dark tone as the former Yaxha tribe members gathered wood while the former Nakum tribe sat and watched. Feeling himself among the odd ones out, Brandon observed, "Woke up this morning and it wasn't a dream: we really merged. A new tribe, one big happy family, but that's not how it is at all." With the merge, Nakum now had a 6-to-4 advantage for the next vote. Danni spoke for the former Yaxha when she said, "We know our heads are on the chopping block, and we're trying to do what we can do to stay around, but we feel like an outsider."

The first Tree Mail for the new tribe contained a new flag, paints and a special message telling them of a hidden treasure. The tribe was stunned to learn there was a hidden individual Immunity idol somewhere in the jungle. The rule: In addition to any individual Immunity won at a Challenge, you can use the small stone idol to save yourself at Tribal Council. The idol must be used before the vote, and it expires when the tribe is down to the Final Four. A perplexed Stephenie could only respond with, "What?"

A sense of urgency swept over the camp as the newly formed tribe began scouring the jungle looking for the hidden idol. Was it on the ground, in a tree or under a rock? Cindy noted, "Finding the secret Immunity idol is huge for anyone. If you use it right, you can almost guarantee yourself the Final Four." Even though it was like looking for a needle in a haystack, Brandon would not give up hope of finding the stone statue, noting, "I have a target on my head, so I could really use it."

Searching the jungle during a rainstorm, Bobby Jon took Stephenie aside to ask for a favor. Despite the bad blood between them, Bobby Jon saw Stephenie as one of the power players and asked her to help him stay in the game long enough to make the Jury. Feeling Bobby Jon deserved a spot on the Jury, Stephenie told him she would do everything in her power as long as Brandon did not win the upcoming Immunity. Stephenie laid it on the line: "I told him I could not make any promises, but it's going to be him or Brandon that goes."

On the morning of day 20, the new tribe finally decided on a name. They combined the names of the two former tribes and would now be called Xhakum. In keeping with SURVIVOR tradition, they painted their names on the flag before they hung it up. Although the flag was supposed to represent one united tribe, it was clear there were still two separate tribes. While on another search for the hidden idol, Jamie boasted, "I've been looking for it because I don't want any of the old Yaxha to have it." Feeling like he, Brandon, Gary and Danni are sitting ducks, Bobby Jon intensified his search for the idol. While hunting for the statue, Rafe was stung by a nest of hornets. After running for his life, he exclaimed, "That was just the message from the Mayan Gods: I was not meant to find that idol."

Expectations of a traditional merge feast that never happened had most of the tribe a little out of sorts, especially Stephenie, who complained, "Immunity idol is cool and all, but we are, like, starving." Wanting to do something about the lack of food and lift the spirits of the tribe, Brandon, Gary, Danni and Bobby Jon went fishing. While the four were away, the remaining Survivors bad-mouthed and trash-talked them. The overconfident Judd blurted out, "Whoever gets the biggest fish goes home first!"

Reflecting on the uncomfortable tone that had engulfed the camp, Rafe confessed, "I had this sad realization. Am I a member of the axis of evil?" Stephenie took a moment to confirm the voting order: Brandon, Bobby Jon, then Danni. Rafe then added, "Bashing people when they are not around to bring group unity is not a nice way to play this game." Unhappy with the climate at the new camp, the four former Yaxha joked about paddling back to their old camp to escape.

When the new Xhakum tribe arrived for the Immunity Challenge, it appeared to be some sort of feast. However, it was a feast with a twist. The object of the Challenge: balance a clay pot on your head while standing on a podium. The Survivors were given the option to participate in the Immunity Challenge if they want to, or sit down and enjoy the feast. Jamie, Stephenie, Rafe and Lydia chose the feast, while all of the former members of the Yaxha tribe plus Judd and Cindy chose to participate in the Challenge.

As six of tribemates endured the grueling Guatemalan heat with pots on their heads, the other four gorged themselves on the feast just a few feet away. When host Jeff Probst asked if anybody expected four people would be sitting down to a feast, Jamie piped up with, "Bobby Jon and Brandon know they have a chance of going home tonight, and Judd is up there protecting our lead." Jamie's crass statements sparked a heated exchange between him and Bobby Jon, making it clear they were a tribe divided. Bobby Jon managed keep his composure and stood tall in the Challenge. He responded to Jamie's bullying by saying, "When you start going off at the mouth, I ain't going to let you big-boy me." At the end of the one-hour mark, the competition moved to a tie-breaker round. In this round, Survivors must race to the top of the Maya ruin with the pots on their heads. Gary, the ex-professional football player, sprinted to victory and was first to take the individual Immunity necklace.

Jamie's arrogance had taken a toll on everyone, including his own alliance. During a verbal sparring match, Judd told Jamie he should just keep his mouth shut. Cindy was not a fan of Jamie's crude behavior either: "We told him again and again to keep some of your thoughts to your self because it may come around to get him." Rafe looked at the bigger picture and began to question his decision to be in an alliance with Jamie when he confessed, "I cannot respect myself and go far in this game with Jamie." After talking with Judd and Stephenie about voting Jamie out, Bobby Jon declared, "Jamie's being an idiot, and he is digging his own hole. He's probably going home tonight."

Jamie, Brandon and Bobby Jon were hanging by the fire when Jamie bluntly told Brandon he was on the chopping block and was going home. The deflated Brandon could hardly say a word, and Bobby Jon managed to keep cool during the exchange. A moment later, Bobby Jon whispered to Brandon that the rest of the tribe had been talking about voting off Jamie. Brandon declared, "I'm going to crap my pants if it works out like that."

The farm boy from Kansas seemed to get a second wind when he believed he might be spared from the vote. But to insure himself, he took one more walk through the jungle hoping to find the hidden Immunity idol. "I guess I am hoping this one deal goes through and Jamie gets voted off rather than myself." Moments later, he added, "this is SURVIVOR. Things get switched around, it'll change and something will happen and something is starting to happen."

Just before leaving for Tribal Council, Gary made a last-minute appeal to Rafe to make the right decision and vote off Jamie, pleading, "Do what is right." Rafe was conflicted and not sure what to do. Torn between alliances and who is more deserving, Cindy noted, "This game is not about who you care the most about, because at some point you got to get rid of everybody if you are going to win. So it is very difficult."

At Tribal Council, the fallout from Jamie's behavior resulted in another face-off between him and Bobby Jon. Ultimately, the vote went down tribal lines, and Brandon was voted out of SURVIVOR:GUATEMALA.