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CBS' 'Pirate Master' cuts buccaneer wannabe John Lakness adrift


By Christopher Rocchio, 06/01/2007 

The 16 buccaneer wannabes competing on CBS' new Pirate Master reality competition series set sail on the Picton Castle in search of Captain Henry Steel's treasure during last night's season premiere. But despite powering his crew through the first Expedition as well as making a last ditch attempt to get his fellow pirates to join him and mutiny against the ship's Captain during Pirate Master's first Pirate Court, John Lakness, a 25-year-old scientist/Chippendale Dancer from Carlisle, MA, was the first swashbuckler cut adrift.

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Pirate Master's first episode began with its 16 cast members traveling under the cloak of darkness to the Picton Castle -- a 179-foot, square-rigged barque that will also serve as their main form of plundering transportation  -- to begin their 33 day journey traveling around the Caribbean island nation of Dominica in search of treasure totaling $1 million. 

Once they boarded the ship they were met by Pirate Master host Cameron Daddo, who immediately put them to work in pulling up the Chest of Zanzibar, which once belonged to (fictional) pirate Captain Henry Steel. Cameron then explained the legend of Steel, which began in 1726 when he divided his fortune into 14 treasures: one for him and one for each of his 13 crewmen. They buried the treasure and made two maps for each location. These 14 maps were currently locked in 14 separate compartments inside the Chest of Zanzibar and together, they all lead to treasure worth $1 million.

"When you see the treasure chest come up out of the water and the waves splashing on your face, you pull the thing out, and it's like, 'You know what? Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!'" said Louie Frase, a 43-year-old marina owner from Fishing Creek, MD, who cackles and looks like an actual pirate.  "I think I want me some of that!"

With the excitement mounting, Cameron told the pirates they'd have to wait until morning to open the Chest's first compartment.  So instead, the pirates enjoyed some rum and got to know each other.  As the crew mingled, Jocelyn "Joy" McElveen, a 21-year-old receptionist from West Columbia, SC, said the only one that really made her feel "weird" was John, a "soft-talker."

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"I'm a geek, so if things don't go my way in the beginning in terms of the way people perceive me, then it could just go wrong right out of the start," said John, before approaching Jay Hatkow, a 37-year-old automotive-parts salesman from Detroit, MI.  The two discussed how they were both "misfits," but Jay seemed to understand the name of the game he was playing.  "To be the Pirate Master, you're going to have to be ruthless, you're going to have to be cruel," said Jay.  "And if that means cutting the throats of people who think that they can trust me and like me, so be it."

The next morning, Louie awoke the crew early and they set sail for the island of Dominica, where they would open the first compartment of the chest. While Joe Don "J.D." Norton, a 36-year-old smoke jumper from Ft. Wainwright, AK, had previous experience on the sea as a member of the Navy and Sean Twomey, a 27-year-old bartender from Venice, CA, said he grew-up on the ocean, Joy didn't handle the motion of the ocean as easily.


Joe Don "J.D." Norton enjoys life as Pirate Master's first Captain (Photo credit Monty Brinton/CBS)
"I guess this is what they call getting sea sickness.  I feel like I need to throw-up, but it won't come..." said Joy before finally getting sick over the side of the boat.  Her weak physical state did not go unnoticed by Jay.  "Joy immediately got seas sick.  She'd get up, puke, lay back down.  We were all pretty much running around on the ship, busting our butts.  She was pretty much curling up in the fetal position and puking her guts out."  J.D. also found some time to make a somewhat loose alliance with Ben Fagan, a 23-year-old student/musician from Boston, MA.

"I think I do have a knack for taking over, I think I do see the big picture.  I don't mind booting people off, but I've got an attitude, you know what I mean?" said J.D. to Ben, who responded, "I just don't want people to think we're getting too buddy-buddy... That's the tricky part.  I don't mind flying under the radar a little bit."  Cameron then called the crew over and it was time to open the first of the Chest of Zanzibar's 14 compartments, which contained two maps and two compasses.  The crew was then randomly split into two teams, a Red Crew and a Black Crew. The first crew to use their map and their compass to discover the treasure will get to keep all the first Expedition's gold to themselves.

For their first Expedition, the pirates had to paddle up the mouth of the Indian River and make a left at a fork to find Dead Man's Tree. Then, after heading east on foot, they'd have to find three buried keys that would unlock and lower a skeleton's cage that held their next map. 

The Black Crew consisted of J.D.; Louie; Ben; John; Kendra Guffey, a 38-year-old dive master from Los Angeles, CA; Cheryl Kosewicz, a 35-year-old district attorney from Sparks, NV; Elicia "Jupiter" Mendoza, a 30-year-old bartender from Los Angeles, CA; and Alexis Shubin, a 26-year-old fashion publicist from Laguna Beach, CA. 

The Red Crew consisted of Joy; Jay; Sean; Christa DeAngelo, a 29-year former member of the military from Tamaqua, PA; Azmyth Kaminski, a 26-year-old music producer from Los Angeles, CA; Nessa Nemir, a 29-year-old make-up artist from Berkeley, CA; Christian Okoye, a 45-year-old former NFL player from Rancho Cucamonga, CA; and Laurel Schmidt, a 21-year-old glass blower from Los Angeles, CA.

The two crews got in their long boats and began to paddle to the river's mouth.  While the crews were initially neck-and-neck, the Red Crew eventually went off course when they failed to use their rudder to navigate.  Armed with a pretty sizeable lead, the Black Crew tied-up their boat and began to head east on foot.  Just prior to reaching the skeleton's cage, the crew was met by a large pit of mud.  As they walked through it slowly, Ben lost one of his shoes and considerably slowed down his Black Crew even more as he searched for it.  Rushed by his crew, Ben eventually pulled his shoe out and they continued to the cage.

Once there, the Black Crew quickly began to dig for their three keys and found them with little trouble.  However J.D. had all sorts of problems with the lock, allowing the Red Crew to catch-up as they waded through the mud.  Frustrated, J.D. eventually relinquished the key and let John try his hand at it. 

"I said, 'Look.  There's three keys and one lock.  That means the lock is a three-part lock.'  So it was very simple," said John, who opened the cage just as the Red Crew arrived.  The next map led the Black Crew farther down the Indian River where they encountered a Sabotage -- a game element similar to The Amazing Race's Yield stops -- that allowed the leading crew to slow the other crew by hanging a large net across the river. 

After The Black Crew triggered the Sabotage, they continued on to Crocodile's Lair, the location of the sunken treasure, which was attached to two crocs' heads.  At Crocodile's Lair, the Black Crew wasn't very organized and had a hard time finding the treasure, once again allowing the Red Crew to catch-up, navigate under the Sabotage and also begin to search for the treasure.  It was John who logically looked at the situation, and for the second time on the expedition, saved his crew.

"I know that it has something to do where crocodiles live, crocodiles live under mangrove trees..." explained John, as he found the sunken chest under a mangrove tree.  "I pulled the treasure out, I won it for the team.  I pulled them through the whole thing... I really expected a lot out of the people I was playing with.  But somehow, I found myself far and above, the only person that was able to do it."

Once the crews returned to the ship, Cameron explained that the treasure the Black Crew unearthed contained gold coins worth three different values:  $500, $100 and $20.  As the Black Crew excitedly counted the gold coins, they were even more happy to learn it totaled $40,000. Cameron then told the Black Crew they must pick a Head of Household Captain from their group. Almost the entire Black Crew voiced their support for J.D. because they felt he displayed leadership abilities on the Expedition. John was the only one who took issue with J.D. being elected as Captain, since John felt he was responsible for capturing the treasure. However he was outvoted, and J.D. became Captain.

"Somebody nominates J.D., I don't even know who it was, everybody's hands go up like a bunch of lemmings," said John.  J.D. saw it differently.  "John's difficult.  He's not a team player and he' kind of a black sheep."

After J.D.'s selection, Cameron then informed Pirate Master's buccaneers of another show element -- that as Captain, J.D. would receive half the treasure -- $20,000 -- and had elect two Officers. He chose Cheryl and Ben, who each received $5,000, while the rest of the Black Crew was sent down below with only $2,000 each. 

As the Black and Red Crews were both abolished and they all became crew members under J.D. until the next Expedition, John continued to bemoan the choice of J.D. as Captain.  Part of serving as Captain and Officer meant relegating duties to the Picton Castle's crew and also meant J.D., Ben and Cheryl got to live in the Captain's Quarters.  The first time J.D. addressed his crew, it didn't go very well, and his military background definitely came out.

"These are my two Officers.  I am the Captain of the ship.  Us three are moving out of here, so we'll be in there," said a stern J.D. as he pointed towards the Captain's Quarters.  "Things are going to change a whole lot... A whole lot."  Jay -- seemingly always very perceptive -- said the crew was "concerned" because J.D. "erred on the side of arrogance" as soon as he became Captain.  Louie was a little more direct in his criticism of the Captain.

"Once he put on that Captain's hat, Joe Don went into another world and he thinks he's the boss, and he likes that 50% pay," said Louie.  Having a military background, J.D. expressed his desire to create some "order" on the Picton Castle, and had Cheryl and Ben relay that message to the crew.  When Cheryl said there would be "consequences" if the chores weren't done, Louie didn't mind performing the chores, but was not too happy the orders were coming from J.D..

"Joe Don cannot harm me by making me do any chore on this ship because I'll just do whatever needs to be done.  I don't care what needs to be done," said Louie.  "I've got news for [J.D.].  His days are definitely numbered if I have anything to say about it.  Any day of the week, I'd rather stand with the crew than the Captain. If he thinks he's gonna get 50 percent of the treasure every time we go on a treasure hunt, he's got another thing coming."

The next day J.D. learned as Captain, he had to mark three pirates with the Black Spot for Pirates' Court, a Survivor Tribal Council-like event that would see one individual eliminated and "cut adrift. The three pirates with the Black Spot would first be forced to defend themselves at Pirates' Court, with one ultimately being cut adrift.  The three pirates who received the Black Spot would also be unable to vote at Pirates' Court. However it wasn't so cut and dry, as Cameron warned J.D. to choose who receives the Black Spot wisely because if his officers and the rest of the crew unanimously agreeed, they could mutiny and instead send him adrift.  Like those who receive the Black Spot, the Captain and Officers do not vote at Pirates' Court.  J.D. met with his Officers and he informed them that he wanted John off the ship.

"John's got to get out of here," said J.D.  "John has rubbed me wrong from day one.  He's off in his own world.  He does his own thing.  I can't have any room for that on my ship."  Since Ben overheard Louie complaining and discussing mutiny, Louie joined John in receiving a Black Spot, as did Joy.  The Officers informed the rest of the crew about Pirates' Court and they distributed the letters to each crew member. John, Louie, and Joy found Black Spots on their letters.  Louie was "angry," Joy was "hurt," and John was strategic.

"I stole both compasses," said John after receiving the Black Spot.  "They're absolutely essential to the Expeditions."  John then informed some of his fellow crew members that he had taken the compasses, explaining that because he now had control over navigation, he felt mutiny was the only option and expected to see J.D. cut adrift.

At Pirates' Court, Louie, John, and Joy each had an opportunity to defend themselves. Joy and Louie made a somewhat laughable plea to their friends that they've made so far in order to secure their safety.  John, meanwhile, took a totally different approach and tried to appeal to the pirates in them.

"I have to say that for myself, I know why my ass is on the line, and it's because I did not vote for Joe Don when the treasure was split up... When the rest of my crew said they wanted him to be the Captain.  That makes me dangerous and it says subversion and all sorts of things, and he's been defensive about it the whole time," explained John.  "Basically, I do think the Captain should go, and I have a very convincing argument for it.  These compasses are your only compasses.  They're your only navigational aids.  I have them.  If I go, they go... Do you really want Louie to go?  Do you really want Joy to go?  Do you really want to lose the compasses?  Or, do you want to send-off the guy who took $20,000 and gave everybody else additional duties and zero dollars for doing that duty!?  Maybe consider the Captain should have been the one receiving the Black Spot."

With John's case clearly made, J.D. responded.  "At night, the Big Dipper points to the North Star," he said, attempting to show off his navigational skills.  "You know where north is, you know where south is, you know where east and west are.  During the day, you put a stick in the mud, it casts a shadow.  Mark the end of that shadow, wait 30 minutes, it will cast another shadow.  Draw a line between the two, and you have east and west, and you know what north and south is.  I don't need your compasses... And I don't need you." 

John then opened one of the compasses and simply asked J.D. which way was north.  After looking up at the cloudy sky as rain fell upon his face, J.D. answered, "I have no idea..."  The crew members then took their ballots and pushed them down upon an upright dagger, voting for either John, Louie, Joy or J.D. 

After Cameron counted the 10 ballots, he said it was a "very clear decision" and "unanimous."  John was cut adrift.

"Nobody really cared about the compasses," a somewhat shocked John opined after his elimination was announced.  "That may or may not be a mistake.  You know it was my last-ditch effort.  I thought it was a pretty strong move, but it really didn't end up swaying anybody.  I can't really be bitter about that.  I like to play big and I like to play hard... and just going for it all."

Pirate Master will air its second episode on Thursday, June 7 at 8PM ET/PT on CBS.

(Photo credit Monty Brinton/CBS)

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