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Erik Huffman the eleventh castaway eliminated from 'Survivor: China'


By Christopher Rocchio, 12/07/2007 

Erik Huffman didn't have the numbers in his favor and was unable to do anything about it, as the 26-year-old musician from Nashville, TN became the eleventh castaway eliminated from Survivor: China during last night's broadcast of the long-running CBS reality competition series.

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"I wanted to go all the way to the top in this game but unfortunately today was my day," opined Erik following his ouster.  "I think I could always look back and say, 'Well I could have done this or I could have done that.'  But I'm mentally and physically and emotionally exhausted.  I made it 33 days... I am really proud of myself. The five remaining contestants are going to battle it out and I am really curious to see who comes out on top."

Survivor: China's twelfth episode began with the six remaining castaways returning to the merged Hae Da Fung camp following the previous Tribal Council, where James Clement -- who had both of the Hidden Immunity Idols in his possession -- was blind-sided by the members of his alliance.  Todd Herzog, a 22-year-old flight attendant from Pleasant Grove, UT, said he was "so nervous" their plan to oust James wouldn't work, a sentiment everyone else agreed with.

"Could you imagine if this didn't work and he came back here?" wondered Denise Martin, a 40-year-old school lunch lady from Douglas, MA.  "We would all be dead!"

The following day the castaways huddled in the cave to keep dry as rain hammered the camp.  They passed the time by commenting how miserable they all felt and opined for home.  Todd also reiterated his plan for the Final 4 included himself; Denise; Amanda Kimmel, a 23-year-old hiking guide and Miss Montana USA 2005 from Los Angeles, CA; and Courtney Yates, a 26-year-old waitress from New York, NY. 

Todd added the "goal was to get rid of Erik" and Peih-Gee Law, a 29-year-old jeweler from Marina Del Rey, CA, next.  However Peih-Gee had other plans.

"Seeing the original Fei Long members turn on each other absolutely gives me hope," said Peih-Gee.  "There must be a crack in old tribal lines somewhere because Erik and I are still around. If I can get one or even two more people, we could possibly cause a tie at Tribal Council, which would be kind of interesting. I'm not giving up until I am voted out and I love that I am still here!"

The castaways then met for their next Reward Challenge, and host Jeff Probst explained the rules.   Each castaway would be paired up in teams of two, with each team separated on opposite ends of a giant maze. They had to navigate their way through the maze to find their partner and make it to the center platform. First team to make it to the center won Reward. Of course, they were all blindfolded.

However Jeff then dropped the bomb that instead of being paired with other castaways, they'd be paired with family members from home.  Erik was paired with his mom Denise; Amanda was with her sister Katrina; Peih-Gee had her dad Lawrence; Todd was with his sister Brandi; Courtney was with her dad Graham (who was wearing a suit); and Denise was with her husband Robert.  Jeff revealed the winning team would receive a boat trip and a meal with their loved one, as well as a call from home.

When Todd's sister came out, the two embraced and he asked about how his youngest sister Kim was doing with her pregnancy.  Brandi told Todd that Kim miscarried the baby, but she was still doing okay.

"My other little sister at home was pregnant and lost her baby, but it happened for a reason and she is doing okay and that is what is important," said Todd through tears when Jeff asked what had happened.

The challenge then commenced and all of the participants embarked into the maze blindfolded.  While most teams tried to follow their partner's voice, many had a hard time getting on the same page.  Denise was the first to find her partner, and she and Robert worked their way to the center platform.  Denise and Robert won Reward with little trouble.

Denise chose Todd and Brandi and Amanda and Katrina to accompany her on the boat trip.  In addition, Jeff also revealed Robert, Brandi and Katrina would be spending the night at the Hae Da Fung camp.

"Just for my husband to be here in China -- he's afraid to fly -- just for him to come here, that means a lot to me," said Denise.  "But to come here and compete and to win a challenge together, it's so uplifting."

The three duos then pigged out on the boat before Denise's phone rang, and she spoke with her children back at home.  Needless to say, it was an emotional phone call.

"Being able to hear their voices and having my husband with me today definitely gives me the strength to keep on going," said Denise.  "I am going to be here to the end and grab strength from them and embrace it."

Back at camp, Peih-Gee was fuming about Denise not choosing her to share Reward with since Peih-Gee shared the previous Reward she won with Denise.  Erik also commented how he "did not believe" Todd's story about his sister, quickly adding if it is true, he offers his "deepest condolences."  Courtney thought it was "convenient" that the information was revealed at the right time to play the sympathy card.

"Todd was going for the Oscar with his performance of [his] sister having a convenient miscarriage," said Courtney, before comically recapping the conversation between a weepy Todd and Jeff.   "That is not like the fake [Survivor: Pearl Islands castaway] Johnny Fairplay, 'My Grandma died!' You can almost forgive that... That is funny!"

The boat returned to camp and Todd, Amanda and Denise shared some chocolate with Erik, Courtney and Peih-Gee.  Todd and Brandi and Amanda and Katrina hung-out in the surf, and Todd expressed hope that people believed the story about his youngest sister having a miscarriage right after he left for China.

"They are going to think I am lying, like I am pulling a big lie to see my sister," said Todd.  "Hopefully everybody believes it because it wasn't a lie... I know there's been a lot of pointing at me as a strategic threat, but it was all true.  It was all from the heart.  I wasn't out to be some snake right there."

Denise shared some alone time with Robert, and explained to him how she hopes Amanda and Todd don't "backstab" her and take Courtney to the Final 3 instead of her.  At the same time, Todd and Amanda were plotting against Denise.  Amanda made it quite clear she didn't think anyone would stand a chance against Denise in the jury vote.

"She has kids... Denise makes $100 a week," said Amanda.  "In the Final 3, she will play her sob story."  Todd agreed with Amanda, saying the two of them were on the "same level" as Courtney.

"We've pissed a lot of people on the jury off," he said.  "It's a pretty even chance between all of us."

The next morning the family members said their emotional goodbyes and left the camp.  Peih-Gee decided to confront Denise about being "upset" she wasn't chosen for Reward.  After beating around the bush, Peih-Gee straight-up asked Denise why she chose Amanda.

"I don't know," answered Denise.  "She was feeling faint at Tribal Council. She wasn't able to talk. She has been through it really badly."

Peih-Gee said she felt a "little better" Denise at least explained her reasoning.

"I might need [Denise's] vote if I can convince her to try to vote somebody else off," said Peih-Gee.  "Right now, I am going to concentrate on gathering up all my energy and focus on winning that [Immunity Challenge] because I really need it... Every time since the merge, I feel like I need to win."

Hae Da Fung then gathered for Survivor: China's next Immunity Challenge, and Jeff explained the rules. 

Each castaway would be attached to a rope that snaked through a series of obstacles. At each obstacle, they had to maneuver over, under or around it to untangle the rope and continue on the course. At the end of the course were boxes, with each box containing one true statement and one false statement about Chinese history. They had to choose the correct statement, grab the corresponding key, and race back to the start, where they'd find a box with three locks. If they answered the question correctly, the key would unlock the box and a flag would be raised. If they were wrong, they had to head back to retrieve the correct key. First castaway to answer three questions correctly and open their locks to raise the flag would win Immunity.

Todd and Amanda grabbed an early lead and were the first to the boxes, with Peih-Gee hot on their heels.  Todd, Amanda and Peih-Gee all correctly answered their first statement and unlocked their first box.  While Todd was the first to unlock his second box, Amanda chose an incorrect statement as being true and basically lost her standing in the challenge.  However Peih-Gee answered her second statement correctly, and she still trailed Todd.

With Todd having the opportunity to easily win the challenge, he incorrectly answered his third statement and opened the door for Peih-Gee.  She correctly chose her third and final statement, winning Immunity.  Back at camp, Peih-Gee realized her Individual Immunity win was the only reason she wasn't getting the boot at the upcoming Tribal Council.

"I can't believe I won and I am still crying about it," said Peih-Gee.  "I have been the underdog this whole time I have been here, and every Council that I am not wearing the necklace I expect to be voted out. So... This is probably one of my proudest moments I have ever had in my entire life... I am safe tonight, but it has been mentally and physically exhausting."

Todd was immediately worried that Erik and Amanda were bonding as he watched them fish together.  Todd added he'd be writing Erik's name down at Tribal Council, calling it the "easiest vote" so far in the competition.  Erik was chatting up Amanda on the boat, and openly questioned the truth behind Todd's story about his sister.

"If I were on Todd's side, I would feel a little shaded out, just by not trusting him," said Erik to Amanda, who agreed that Todd could have "played up" the story about his sister.

"The hard part for me is that nobody here trusts Todd," explained Erik in a confessional.  "It irks me because I have thrown his name out there and, okay, well if you don't trust him then what's the deal? I feel like I have to fight, but I don't know what to do."

Unsure how to strategize, Erik immediately ran to Peih-Gee for help.  Peih-Gee and Erik agreed they'd vote for Todd at the upcoming Tribal Council -- and while it probably should have been Erik who approached Denise about forming an alliance since it was his neck on the chopping block -- it was instead Peih-Gee who pitched the idea.

"Honestly I think Todd wants to go to the Final 3 with Amanda and Courtney," Peih-Gee told Denise. "If [Denise] votes Erik out now, it's highly likely that she will end up in fourth place. If she tries to force a tie and Todd gets voted out tonight, suddenly her chances of getting to the top three are much better."

Denise said she's "stuck in a hard place right now" when she realized she was the "swing vote."  Todd grew increasingly nervous when he saw Denise conversing with Peih-Gee, and once Peih-Gee left Denise alone with Todd, he asked what was going on.

"Are they pushing?" Todd asked Denise.

"Of course," answered Denise.

"I trust you," Todd replied.

"This Tribal Council is definitely a turning point in the game," said Denise.  "If I do switch and go with [Erik and Peih-Gee], are my chances better? Probably... But am I going to win against one of those two? I don't know. Right now, it's like a 50/50 split."

Survivor: China's eleventh Tribal Council commenced, and James, Michael "Frosti" Zernow, Jean-Robert Bellande and Jaime Dugan entered as the first four members of the jury.

Overall, it was a pretty uneventful Tribal Council, with the lines already drawn in the sand and everybody wondering what Denise would do.  Peih-Gee commented there was "definitely some ambiguity going on" at camp.

"If you want to look at it as us being two against four, one person is at the very bottom and I don't see why they wouldn't make that leap and be like, 'I don't want to be fourth, I want to be first,'" said Peih-Gee.  "It could turn the game around entirely."

Denise nodded in agreement and told Jeff she always feels like she's on the "bottom of the barrel" in her alliance and is "really, really scared."  Erik then made one final plea to Denise to try and save his skin.

"Honestly, I want to be here tomorrow," he said.  "I hope people realize that if there's four and two -- there could be three and three -- and all of a sudden you're not fourth, you're in the Top 3 and you've got a chance to win $1 million.  I'm playing that card... That's all I've got left."

What Erik had left wasn't enough, as Amanda, Courtney, Denise and Todd all voted to oust Erik, who along with Peih-Gee voted to boot Todd.

Survivor: China's penultimate episode will air on Thursday, December 13 at 8PM ET/PT on CBS. 

(Photo credit CBS)


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