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Posted on Jul 14, 2011 11:30am

And then there were nine. After a tie between Kucha's Jeff Varner and Ogakor's Colby Donaldson, it was Jeff's previous votes, compared to Colby's none, that tipped the scales in Colby's favor. Jeff Varner became the first person to be voted out of the newly formed Barramundi Tribe. The 34-year-old Internet Project Manager from Greensboro, North Carolina, who had planned to "eat the [Ogakor tribe] up and spit them out," accepted his fate honorably: "I am going home having had an awesome time," he said. "This has been the most amazing experience I have ever had in my life."

Nighttime Strategy

After eighteen days of competition between the Ogakor and Kucha tribes, the remaining five members from each tribe prepared to merge into one. Although the two tribes were becoming one, it was clear that former tribal lines ran deep.

At Kucha, Mike Skupin's unfortunate accident had only strengthened the tribe's bond even more. Vowing that the Kuchas would stay together, Elisabeth Filarski had this to say about the other tribe: "We don't even know them. We have zero loyalties to them." ( Elisabeth on Kucha bonding. ) Alicia Calaway predicted, "This is going to get real ugly if we want this to work." But Jeff had a feeling that the Ogakor tribe might be gunning for him: "They know I have a vote against me," he shared with his tribemates.

Day 19: Boys' Night Out

The Survivors received tree mail notifying them of the first step towards the merge. Ogakor's note stated that the men must hike to Kucha, while Kucha's note indicated that the women must hike to Ogakor. This was an opportunity for members of one tribe to assess the camp of the other tribe, while also allowing the rivals to talk in depth for the first time. Having assumed that each tribe was given the same tree mail, Rodger Bingham, the farmer and schoolteacher from Crittenden, Kentucky, was surprised to see Ogakor's Colby and Keith approach their camp. "We were expecting the women over here," he acknowledged. Colby responded, "Rodger, I am really sorry, but I didn't even bring a skirt with me so I can't do anything for you."

Despite the camaraderie, there was careful strategy at work. The two tribes assumed that the merged tribe would live either at Ogakor or Kucha (that's how the merge worked last season on Survivor). As a result, the men of Kucha cooked their last chicken to feed the hungry visitors in hopes of persuading the men of Ogakor that their camp would make the better home.

Girls' Night Out

Over at Ogakor, Elisabeth and Alicia arrived to find themselves welcomed with open arms by Jerri Manthey, Amber Brkich and Tina Wesson. Having heard no details of the accident at Kucha, the Ogakor women listened in astonishment as Elisabeth and Alicia explained that Mike had burned his hands. Shock gave way to relief when they heard that their fellow Survivor would be fine.

Tension arose when rain began to fall. Jerri discovered that Keith had inadvertently taken their matches with him in his jacket pocket. This left Ogakor's camp with no resource to light a fire should the rain put out the one currently burning. Nevertheless, it was important to Jerri that she not reveal her annoyance with Keith to the others. Explained Tina, "It is in Jerri's best interest not to show a real hateful side at this time." Jerri prepared her Outback tortillas for their visitors as the women's conversation turned to the subject of food. Hours later, they were still discussing what delicacies and cuisines they missed most. "We are torturing ourselves," exclaimed Elisabeth.

Despite the chivalries at both camps, each Survivor was secretly sizing up the members of the other tribe. Said Alicia, "I am appreciative of them cooking for us, but I can't wait to get them back to our camp to give them something real to eat." Back at Kucha, Jeff Varner was quick to notice potential cracks in Ogakor. "They are nice guys," he commented, "but I think Keith is more of an outsider. But then again, they could be working us and we wouldn't even know it."

Day 20: The Merge

The Survivors were thrown for a loop when both camps received tree mail the next day informing them that they had 15 minutes to gather whatever they could carry. Their instructions indicated that they would be hiking to a third location to build a brand new camp.

Explained Jerri, "When we looked at the map, the new camp was in a completely different spot. Everything was completely untouched. We are going to have to build everything from scratch." Keith Famie expressed his annoyance when he said, "I was really frustrated with moving. I just didn't want to leave; we were comfortable; it's a real pain."

The men scramble for Kucha's belongings before heading to their new campAfter a grueling two-hour hike, the Survivors met along the Herbert River at the spot where they had originally crossed on their first day in the Outback. Awaiting them was an orange flag that would symbolize the new tribe. Beneath the flag sat a crate filled with cheese, crackers, fruit and wine to toast the birth of the new tribe. To Nick's dismay, most of the hungry Survivors immediately began grabbing up the food. "We opened the box and people just starting diving their hands in, which pissed me off," he said. "I'm thinking, let's make sure we get even amounts, but I decided to just back off." Alicia had a different observation: "It was really kind of interesting; in the middle of all this celebrating, this game is still being played every minute of every day."

Day 21: Barramundi is Born

The newly formed tribe gets to know each otherThe Survivors were faced with two immediate tasks: build a shelter and name their new tribe. Rodger suggested that the shelter be built up the hill, under trees, on flat ground. Jerri preferred that the shelter be on the sand in the dried riverbed. Colby Donaldson, watching the group dynamics unfold, later commented, "Sometimes you run into a situation where there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians, so I'm just going to stand back. I don't want to ruffle any feathers at this point."

As they built their new shelter, the tribe agreed upon the new tribe name "Barramundi," after a particular fish indigenous to the Herbert River. Jerri described how fitting she thought the new name was: "It's a great name for our new tribe because this is when things get slippery and sneaky, and it's hard to catch people."


The honeymoon could not last forever. The Barramundi tribe met host Jeff Probst at the immunity challenge. Jeff explained that they are now playing for individual immunity rather than for tribal immunity. The individual who won the challenge would wear the immunity talisman (necklace) and could not be voted out of the tribe at Tribal Council.

The game, called "Perch," was a true test of endurance and determination. Each Survivor was told they had to stand on a wooden pillar in the middle of the river. The last person standing would win immunity.

An hour and a half into the game, Nick became the first person to jump into the water. Colby soon followed, reasoning, "We need Keith or Jerri to win immunity or the old Ogakor tribe is going down, because each of them has had a previous vote against them."

Four hours later, Jeff Probst began to entice the remaining contestants with food to jump off their pillars. Rodger took the offer and leapt into the water. Jeff followed, and perhaps made his fatal mistake by forsaking the possibility of immunity in exchange for a hearty scoop of peanut butter.

Nine hours into the challenge, an exhausted Elisabeth gave up. An hour later, Alicia gave in. That left Keith and Tina to fight for immunity. Ultimately, it was Tina who graciously stepped down when Keith, believing himself to be the most vulnerable, said to Tina, "I need this one." In a display of Ogakor allegiance, Tina climbed down. "That's the hardest thing I have ever done," she said. "It was harder to come in than to stand out there. I knew for the good of our team I had to let Keith win."

Tina's actions proved that old tribal lines still ran deep. Her move saved Keith Famie, whose previous Tribal Council votes might very well have sent him home if the Kucha tribe had been able to vote him out.

Survivor Trivia

Elisabeth Filarski feels that the Ogakor Tribe has an emotional advantage going into the merge.

What else did the women talk about on their night out?